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Kiwis Dying For Dinner

MEDIA RELEASE
15 June 2001

Kiwis Dying For Dinner

Kiwis’ eating habits and lack of exercise are killing them in their hundreds.

An updated report on New Zealanders’ nutritional status, released today by Agencies for Nutrition Action, shows that more than 1000 New Zealanders die each year from obesity – more than double the annual road toll.

More than half New Zealand’s population is overweight or obese. And the cost to the country directly attributable to health-related problems caused by obesity is conservatively estimated at $130m.

The Minister of Health, the Hon Annette King launched the report at an Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA) forum held in Wellington today. The report updates a document called Healthy Weight New Zealand prepared in 1997. It is intended to provide central and local government agencies, District Health Boards, NGOs, industry, media and consumers with background information and recommendations for action, says ANA executive officer Sue Zimmerman.

“The very scary trends identified in 1997 have continued to worsen,” Ms Zimmerman says. “The problem is especially bad for Maori and Pacific Island people and for people on low incomes,” she said

The reduction of obesity was identified as one of the 13 population health objectives in the New Zealand Health Strategy announced in December 2000.

“We believe it’s now essential that action be taken. Our organisations are ready. We just need Government to demonstrate its commitment to the strategy and to solving the problem by giving us the funding we need,” Ms Zimmerman said.

“Effective obesity prevention and management makes sound economic sense – direct costs of obesity divert resources from other health services and intangible costs impact on the quality of life for individuals.”

ANA’s recommendations for action include:

- Strengthen and develop workforce capacity – particularly for Maori and Pacific People.

- Obesity prevention programmes should be based on physical activity and healthy eating guidelines and policies.

- Particular effort is required to ensure that prevention strategies are tailored to meet high-risk population groups and are delivered in a culturally appropriate manner.

- An emphasis on improving environments and partnerships, within and beyond the health sector will be the key to success.

ANA aims to encourage New Zealanders to eat more healthily and be more active and thereby prevent future weight gain. It comprises the Cancer Society, National Heart Foundation, National Diabetes Forum, Dietetic Association, Te Hotu Manawa Maori and New Zealand Nutrition Foundation.

“Our role is to work with others to increase the proportion of New Zealanders who maintain a healthy weight for life. We do this by promoting lifestyles and environments that support good nutrition and physical activity,” Ms Zimmerman says.

ENDS

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