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Health Groups suffocate open debate

Health Groups suffocate open debate

The action taken by health pressure groups in withdrawing from a symposium to discuss ways to combat obesity was an extraordinary attempt to suffocate the free exchange of ideas, Association of NZ Advertisers’ executive director Jeremy Irwin said today.

The symposium, being held at Parliament Buildings tomorrow, was designed to explore ways in which the food industry could assist the MOH in dealing with obesity, Mr Irwin said. The MOH had stated that a continuing and future dialogue between stakeholders on the important issues of obesity and children was essential.

“By refusing to attend, for a host of extraneous reasons, some health lobby groups are demonstrating an unwillingness to have an open debate. They want their views to prevail without any input from the industries involved.”

Mr Irwin said the food industry and the advertising industry were at one with the MOH in recognising the obesity problem. Together, the industries had a wealth of talent willing to contribute to the debate.

“By working together and harnessing the enormous talent in the New Zealand advertising and food industries we could assist the MOH. Instead, some of the health groups have decided that advertising is to blame and we should ban advertising.”

Mr Irwin said the obesity problem was complex, with many contributing factors, and both the food industry and advertisers were prepared to debate the issue, as well as other options, in a bid to find logical, workable solutions.

“We deplore this lack of willingness of some parties to participate in an open, balanced debate. Some people would prefer to impose their views in spite of any amount of research demonstrating that the problem is more wide-ranging than simply advertising.”

Mr Irwin said participation in the symposium would enable health lobby groups to explain just how they would envisage enforcing advertising bans – and whether these would be by brand name, or product content.

Mr Irwin said the MOH had called for ideas on the subject by the end of the month so provisions could be included in a new Health Act. With time fast running out and no opportunities for the various views to be tested, the advertising industry had to step into the vacuum and call the symposium as an opportunity for all sides to get together, put their points of view and explore opportunities for cooperation.

No-one else had done this and time was running out, he said. “We can only deplore this attempt by some health groups to suffocate debate in an attempt to ensure that only their own views prevail.”


For further information please contact: Jeremy Irwin Tel: 021 775 083 / 09 300 5932

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