Boyd Swinburn, a professor of population nutrition and global health at Melbourne's Deakin University, has just completed a three-year intervention program in Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji, reports Radio Australia.
His aim was to lower rates of obesity by using schools to communicate messages on the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise.
His team then worked to determine the socio-cultural reasons behind the intervention's failure, and met with community leaders, including government ministers, school principals and church figures.
He said that their consultations showed widespread recognition that the church was critically important as "a custodian and determinant" of culture, and was key to encouraging cultural change.
Monsignor Peter Koloamatangi, the Catholic Church Vicar General in Tonga, has already made obesity reduction a goal for his community.
"I'm visiting different families in my parish and I talk with them about obesity to change our attitudes to what we eat, and I think I'm going to do it often in the church on Sunday, where I have most of the people present," he said.
Most church leaders have already agreed to encourage ways of expressing Christian values without food, but others, like Reverend Tevita Banivanua from the Fiji Methodist Church, have warned it won't be easy.
FULL STORY Pacific Island churches urged to push anti-obesity message (Radio Australia