Coalition To Attack Obesity
23 July 2003
Coalition To Attack Obesity
The big guns in the fields of nutrition and physical activity have declared war on obesity and they’ve formed a coalition to give them the weight they need to get Kiwis’ weight down.
The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) says obesity is the number one health problem facing New Zealand and the rest of the developed world.
“If we are to halt the escalating epidemic of obesity, we need to change the environment,” says OAC executive director Celia Murphy. “People need to be supported to make healthy choices.”
The growing impact of the problem is seen in the media every day, Ms Murphy says, and the debate involved can be emotional, political and even commercial.
“Just look at the drama surrounding the sponsorship of Olympic cyclist hopeful Sarah Ulmer by McDonald’s and the concern people feel about messages young people might take from an athletic role model taking money from a fast food chain.”
And then, she says, there are issues such as whether or not there should be a “fat tax”; whether advertisers should be allowed to target vulnerable groups; whether warning labels on high energy foods should be mandatory and what food should be allowed in schools.
The fact the issue of obesity touches on so many people is why the OAC’s members believe it is important policy makers are made aware and look at the health impact of all legislation.
“It’s not just about personal or parental responsibility or the right to choose. Nobody makes the choice to be obese. No-one eats food because it is bad for them and it’s not that people are greedy or lazy. Today’s environment makes it hard for people: there’s high energy food everywhere; the opportunities for exercise are limited,” Ms Murphy says. “Our society revolves around food.”
Education is part of the solution, she believes.
“We need to prevent obesity in childhood. More often than not, a fat child becomes a fat adult. Parents need all the help they can get to help prevent their children becoming fat”
Ms Murphy says the OAC will advocate for government policy, regulation and legislation that will help reduce obesity rates.
“The coalition will be a strong and united voice that cannot be ignored at a political level. We will provide a forum to let members know what advocacy is being planned, so that organisations can support and strengthen each other’s activities.
Members of the OAC include the Cancer Society, National Heart Foundation, Public Health Association, the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, Diabetes New Zealand, New Zealand Dietetic Association, and the Health Sponsorship Council. It also has 17 Maori health groups, 11 physical activity organisations, 11 public health organisations, two Pacific Island groups, three local bodies, four universities and three specific interest groups.