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New College of Health to address NZ’s weighty issues

February 21, 2013

New College of Health to address NZ’s weighty issues

Obesity is the biggest health issue for New Zealanders according to one in three respondents to a Massey University online poll.

More than 1300 people took part in the survey, held to coincide with the launch today of the University’s new College of Health, with 33 per cent ranking being excessively overweight as the country’s most significant health issue.

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says the poll shows the need for a transformational shift in contemporary approaches to healthcare, which the new college is responding to.

"This new college demonstrates our awareness of the need for a transformational shift in contemporary approaches to healthcare, from what is now being recognised as an unsustainable focus on treating illness to a focus on promoting wellness and avoiding the need for costly treatment.”

Cancer was second in the poll with 12 per cent of responders ranking it as the most significant health issue. Access to good healthcare was next at 11 per cent and lack of exercise at 10 per cent.

Smoking was the fifth biggest health issue at eight per cent, followed by heart disease with seven per cent and diabetes with six per cent; the rest selected other. The poll asked participants just one question - what they thought was New Zealand’s biggest health issue.

Mr Maharey says the poll shows New Zealanders know that poor diet and lack of exercise have serious implications for health.

Add growing inequalities, an overstretched workforce and an ageing population to the mix, and New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is facing serious health challenges, he says. “It’s important universities respond to these challenges now and provide the leadership for the future.”

The college’s research and teaching will look at measures that enable people to live healthy, productive and independent lives, Mr Maharey says. “New Zealand can no longer afford to keep focusing on treating or managing illness. Through innovative research we can learn more about prevention and what keeps people well.”

The college will take a multidisciplinary approach to tackle health challenges. “Our researchers are already undertaking major obesity and cancer-related studies and our experts will strive to find solutions to big health issues.

"They will work together to create a world where most of the illnesses we have today no longer exist. Where illnesses like asthma, obesity and diabetes are as foreign to us a polio is today.”

The college has 310 fulltime staff and 2000 students and brings together specialists from public health, Maori and Pasifika health, sport and exercise, rehabilitation, nursing, social work and social policy, food and nutrition, occupational health and medical laboratory science.

It will also work closely with the wider health community – through centres of research excellence such as the Riddet Institute on Massey’s Manawatu campus, medical schools and other universities, district health boards, local government and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and UNESCO.

Professor Paul McDonald, an internationally acclaimed public health specialist, was last year appointed as the college’s Pro Vice-Chancellor. He joins Massey in March.

ENDS

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