Professors Tony Blakely, Nick Wilson, Boyd Swinburn and Cliona Ni Mhurchu
The Government has an action plan to tackle childhood obesity, but it lacks a tax on sugary drinks – a strategy for which there is good evidence. A new Treasury Report on soft drink tax price elasticities has just emerged. It has the look of a strategically published document that if and when – during election year – certain politicians need to defend non-action on taxing sugary drinks, they can point to this Report and obfuscate. Indeed, this New Zealand Treasury Report has already been used for this purpose in Australia. We critique this Report in this blog, with a view to preventing its misrepresentation and to encourage a more informed discussion on taxing sugary drinks.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Cristina Cleghorn, Dr Andrea Teng, Dr Rob Beaglehole, Prof Tony Blakely
New Zealand has made some progress in removing the sale of sugary drinks from hospitals and schools. In this blog we look at such successes to date and consider what could be done to further reduce availability of these products which are both harming oral health and fuelling the obesity epidemic.
Dr Robyn Toomath
Editorial note: In this blog-perspective, obesity expert Dr Robyn Toomath outlines the dogmas and arguments for the ‘individual-responsibility’ explanation and (lack of) solution to the obesity epidemic. She then points to the market failures that render (non-regulated) free-market solutions as doomed to fail. The views in this blog are expanded in greater depth in a book Dr Toomath is launching in Auckland and Wellington this month, Fat Science (Auckland University Press).
In this Public Health Expert blog, we reproduce a letter that appeared in the NZ Herald on 2 April 2016. Professors Boyd Swinburn, Rod Jackson, and Cliona Ni Mhurchu led the writing.
Dear Cabinet Ministers,
We are very concerned by New Zealand’s appallingly high rate of childhood obesity, the fourth highest in the world. In addition, every year more than 5000 children under 8 years old require general anaesthetic operations to remove rotten teeth (1). We applaud the government for making childhood obesity a national health priority, however, its action plan of 22 ‘soft’ strategies, which was launched last year with no extra funding, is not sufficient to change current trends. We urge you to implement a significant tax on sugary drinks as a core component of strengthened strategies to reduce childhood obesity and dental caries.
Prof Nick Wilson, Prof Richard Edwards, Prof Tony Blakely
The new draft NZ Health Strategy is strong on strengthening the health care system and has some strong population health aspects, at least rhetorically. It includes phrases like a system moving “from treatment to prevention”. But how does it fare when considering the science around burden of disease and interventions to address the 10 top risk factors for health loss in NZ? Unfortunately not well at all. There are no population health goals and minimal evidence of concrete action to address the major preventable causes of poor health and premature death. In summary, there seems plenty of scope for upgrading the draft Strategy if it is going to enable New Zealanders to “live well, stay well and get well”.