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Be Active – Stay Healthy

21 June 2002

More New Zealanders risk developing cancer unless we eat better and are more physically active says the Cancer Society.

International and national experts in the fields of nutrition, physical activity and cancer are meeting in Wellington today (June 21) for the Cancer Society’s Eat & Run Meeting. The Meeting will be followed by the full conference on June 24-26 in Sydney, which the Cancer Society is jointly hosting with the Australian Cancer Council.

“ Eating well and being physically active are two of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer,” says Carolyn Watts, Health Promotion Programme Manager of the Cancer Society.

“Evidence shows that about one third of all cancer deaths that occur in New Zealand can be attributed to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity - that’s huge.”

Ms Watts says using the most recent annual cancer death figures in New Zealand this equates to more than 2,500 lives every year.

Professor Adrian Bauman from the University of New South Wales, who is speaking at the Eat and Run Meeting says, “We need to focus on changing the physical activity environment - providing facilities and opportunities which make it easy for people to be physically active.

“Media campaigns like Push Play are essential to raise awareness of the need to be physically active. We then have to get everyone from local government to the community, non-government groups like the Cancer Society and policy makers working together. This is the only way we will really achieve a change in physical activity”.

Professor Boyd Swinburn another of the keynote speakers says, “We need to work together and we need to focus on the environment.”

He will cover issues such as:

- What is the impact of the heavy promotion of energy-dense foods and drinks on children?

- How much can physical activity be increased with improved public transport and safe routes to school?

Professor Swinburn says, “There is no shortage of potential strategies to reduce obesity. However, in most countries there is a shortage of political and public will to take the issue seriously enough to invest funding into programmes and put serious effort into policy-led change”.

Some action has been taken and successful initiatives which will be examined at Eat and Run include the Walking School Bus, which aims to increase children’s activity. One of the developers, Bernadine Walsh, says, “Currently more than half of New Zealand primary school children are driven to school - nearly double the number that went by car ten years ago”. The Walking School Bus is a safe way for children to walk to school and there are now “buses’ with volunteer parents as “drivers’ in action all around New Zealand.

Another leading programme, this time aimed at increasing the number of people who are physically active, is Sport and Recreation New Zealand’s (formerly the Hillary Commission) Push Play Campaign. Diana O’Neill will be presenting on Push Play, which includes the successful Green Prescription.

She says, “The Green Prescription is a written prescription for a patient to be more active as part of his or her health management. The Green Prescription can be “prescribed’ by either a doctor or practice nurse”.

“Green Prescription works - evaluation has shown that more than half those given a Green Prescription managed to become more physically active and 85 percent of people found the support they received from their doctor or regional sports trust very helpful,” Ms O’Neill says.


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