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”.
Dr Ninya Maubach (email@example.com)
Consumers have a right to have informative yet easy-to-use nutrition labelling, and effective labelling is one tool to help control the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Everyone agrees that on its own, the current Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) used in NZ does not achieve the goal of facilitating healthier food choices. But suggestions around more consumer-friendly front-of-pack labels have been fiercely contested by industry and health stakeholders – until now, it seems. Is the new Health Star Rating label truly a win-win consensus, or might too much have been given away to reach a compromise?
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.