Ireland leads New Zealand in the battle against obesity

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 2 Comments

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Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Editor note: This blog was prepared by Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu whilst she was visiting her home-country, Ireland. Cliona sent an email to myself and other Kiwis during that time outlining the strong actions that the Irish Government is planning on obesity and food – a far cry from the state of play in New Zealand. Which has led to this blog, in which Cliona makes the head-to-head comparison on food and obesity policy (in)activity between Ireland and New Zealand. Tony Blakely.

In the last couple of years the Irish rugby team gave the All Blacks cause to sit up and take notice not just once but twice. The first occasion was during the 2nd test match in 2012 where the ABs narrowly won with a drop kick minutes before the end, and the second was late last year in Dublin when the ABs won by a margin of just 2 points. Optimistic Irish rugby fans are increasingly convinced that the day will come when Ireland will beat New Zealand at its own game.

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Study of NZ fruit & vegetable prices suggests markets best value-for-money

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 3 Comments

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Dr Amber Pearson & Associate Professor Nick Wilson

Fruit and vege market 1Food prices matter for determining access to healthy food – and so we studied fruit and vegetable prices in two NZ cities in this newly published article in PLOS ONE. In this blog post we elaborate on some of the details, including the finding that prices were generally lower at markets compared to supermarkets (with a family of four potentially saving up to $49 per week by buying at markets compared to from a supermarket). We also consider what else that central and local government could do to facilitate use of such markets.

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A new review on dietary fats: Putting its findings in context

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 18 Comments

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Lisa Te Morenga, Jim Mann, Murray Skeaff, Rod Jackson, Tony Blakely, Nick Wilson, Rachael McLean

Bowl of almondsThis blog considers a newly published review on the evidence around dietary fat intakes and coronary heart disease. We have concerns about some aspects of this review, in particular the lack of context around the totality of the evidence. Hence we suggest that the best evidence for national guidelines is still that which encourages the replacement of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats – with the latter ideally being long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (as found in fish, flax seed and nuts).

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Action needed to halt New Zealand’s obesity epidemic: Themes from Big Food Symposium

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

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Associate Professor Louise Signal

International and national public health experts and delegates met on Monday this week to consider how to address New Zealand’s (NZ’s) increasing obesity epidemic. While they welcome the new Healthy Families NZ community-based initiative recently announced by the Minister of Health, they stress the critical need to focus on upstream policies to prevent obesity as well. Evidence-based policy options identified include: banning junk food marketing to children, introducing a tax on fizzy drinks, introducing easy to understand nutrition labels on foods, and ensuring families can afford to eat a healthy diet. Without supplementing community action with such upstream policy action, the experts at this Big Food Symposium believe obesity rates will stay high and possibly continue to climb. This blog explores some of these issues in more detail. Continue reading

Taxes on fizzy drinks in NZ: preventing premature deaths and raising funds for health

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | 4 Comments

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   Tony Blakely, Cliona Ni Mhurchu  and Nick Wilson

A task of public health research is to quantify the health impact of interventions that are upstream and are political.  In the food environment, we strongly suspect that regulation of the food industry, food reformulation, marketing and price (i.e. taxes and subsidies) will be some of the most effective interventions to address obesity and poor nutrition.  Indeed, much international research supports this (e.g. [1]).  Today some of us have published research in the NZ Medical Journal that finds that about 67 premature deaths a year might be prevented by a 20% tax on fizzy drinks. And that there might be up to $40 million of revenue raised by such a tax.  (Also see TVNZ interview of Ni Mhurchu and Radio NZ interview of Blakely on this research.) In this blog we overview the uncertainty about these findings, the role of researchers in generating such findings, and possible policy implications.fizzy drink tax Continue reading