English, Cook Islands Māori
(91.4 sq mi)
New Zealand dollar (NZD) Cook Islands Dollar
Geography and demographics
Cook Islands is a country located in the south Pacific, halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. It comprises 15 islands that are geographically divided into two groups, commonly referred to as the Northern Group and Southern Group. Cook Islands is a self-governing entity in free association with New Zealand, meaning that the latter has some responsibility over the country’s defence and foreign affairs. The government is an independent parliamentary democracy consisting of 24 elected members, with a separate House of Ariki (high chiefs) made up of 15 members that advise the Government on matters such as traditional questions of landownership and custom. The main sources of income are tourism, offshore banking, marine resources and agriculture.
In May 1953, before its independence, Cook Islands was assigned to the Western Pacific Region at the Sixth World Health Assembly "without prejudice to any questions regarding sovereignty" as an area. On 4 August 1965, it became a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. It joined the World Health Organization on 9 May 1984 as a Member State followed by the establishment of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1983…
The Cook Islands is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system where the Chief Minister is the head of government. The country is in free association with New Zealand, meaning that the latter has some responsibility over the country’s defence and foreign affairs. Additionally, Cook Islands nationals are also New Zealand citizens.
Tourism is the primary industry of the Cook Islands and the leading contributor to its economy. Other important industries include offshore banking, pearls, and the export of fruits and seafood. The New Zealand Dollar and the Cook Islands Dollar are used as currency.
From nightlife and shopping to nature and adventure, the Cook Islands has something to offer even the most seasoned of travellers. The most popular activities for tourists are in the water, with spear fishing, snorkelling, whale watching, kayaking, diving and sailing, just to name a few. The Aitutaki lagoon is world-famous for its beauty, known for its sky blue waters. Raratonga is also ideal for families, where traditional culture and fine dining are intertwined with modern conveniences. The Cook Islands is particularly popular with families for this reason
NCDs and their risk factors are major public health problems in Cook Islands. Cardiovascular disease is the most prevalent NCD, with an average of over 200 cases each year from 2009 to 2015, followed by diabetes with an average of 100 new cases a year. In 2015, 3725 patients were recorded in the Ministry of Health’s registry for NCDs.
Health services in Cook Islands are provided through a system of child welfare clinics, dental clinics, health centres, and one general hospital on the main island of Rarotonga. Four private outpatient clinics, three private pharmaceutical outlets and one private dental clinic also operate in Rarotonga.
The main hospital in the Cook Islands is Raratonga Hospital, located in the capital city of Aravua. There is also Aitutaki Hospital, which is a smaller district centre.
Health-care services range from public health (inclusive of primary care) to secondary care. Overall, Cook Islands is relatively well equipped to provide basic primary and secondary level care. Secondary care includes surgery, medicine, anaesthesia, obstetrics, gynaecology, ophthalmology and paediatrics. These services are supplemented by visiting specialists, and access to tertiary services is through referral to overseas providers.
In 2012, Cook Islands has approximately 294 medical staff distributed throughout the population. Nurses, much like many other Pacific nations, are the largest workforce within the Cook Islands. There are currently 64 nurses at Rarotonga hospital, comprising of six charge nurses, 48 registered nurses, two enrolled nurses and eight nurse-aid positions. There are 36 nurses on the outer islands, which includes five nurse practitioners. The development of the allied health workforce has been steady over the past five years, and continuous professional development has been key to address the gaps that impacts on the ability of the health sector to meet the needs of its population.
WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2018-2022: Cook Islands
Access Cook Islands country profile (CHIPS 2015-2016)
Access UHC and SDG country profile
Health Service Delivery Profile
National immunization data – EPI summaries by country
Health profiles – Cook Islands, Health financing
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