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

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

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

   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

Market deregulation → ↑ fast food consumption → ↑ obesity. Clever international study that includes NZ data

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments

Professor Tony Blakely.

A clever study just published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization has analyzed how changes in fast food transactions per capita within 25 high-income countries was associated with changes in body mass index (BMI).  The change-change analysis is important, as it addresses confounding bias that plagues many studies.  The study found that an increase of 10 fast food purchases per person per year is associated with increases in BMI by 0.33 units (or 1 kg for an average height person).  Of note, the increase of 10 fast food purchases per person per year was exactly that observed for NZ during the 1999 to 2008 period covered by this study. Continue reading

Thoughts on NZ Adopting an Aussie Community Health Programme … and Forthcoming Nutrition Policy Events

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | 2 Comments

Professor Tony Blakely and Associate Professor Nick Wilson

Late last year Health Minister Tony Ryall visited Victoria, Australia, to examine their “Healthy Together Victoria” programme. This week, the Prime Minister announced that NZ will adopt this programme, and it will be known as “Healthy Families New Zealand”. This blog post gives a high level overview of this initiative and anticipates a series of four forthcoming blog posts here at Public Health Expert.

The Australian programme has healthy nutrition as a large focus, but it also extends to include alcohol, physical activity and smoking. Actually, large chunks of it sound like the old Health Eating – Healthy Action programme.

“The Healthy Together Victoria” programme looks a bit like old “Healthy Eating – Healthy Action” programme in New Zealand.

“The Healthy Together Victoria” programme looks a bit like old “Healthy Eating – Healthy Action” programme in New Zealand.







Continue reading

Food taxes and subsidies will probably protect health & reduce inequalities – but the devil is in the detail

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 | TONY BLAKELY | 2 Comments

Professors Tony Blakely, Cliona Ni Mhurchu and Nick Wilson

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Research teams we lead have published two papers in the last few weeks on food taxes and subsidies – both of which depend on what are called price elasticities.  Timely, in light of the launch last week of Appetite for Destruction that is focusing public attention on our food environment, including taxes and subsidies on food. Continue reading