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Implementation Plan needs healthy leadership

24 June 2004

Healthy Eating Healthy Action Implementation Plan needs healthy leadership and healthy funding to make it work

The Obesity Action Coalition hopes the Healthy Eating Healthy Action Implementation Plan launched by the Minister of Health today will be a positive step to getting New Zealanders more physically active, eating better and living healthier lives.

“The increasing incidence of overweight and obesity is a symptom of unhealthy modern living. To address this issue and the many other nutrition and physical activity related problems New Zealanders face, we must change many things in our modern lifestyle and society,” says Celia Murphy, Executive Director of the Obesity Action Coalition.

“It is really important the plan is recognised as an action plan for the whole community. Obesity won’t be solved by the health sector alone. Education is important but just telling people what to do isn’t the answer. We need to change the whole environment we live in and support people to change their lifestyle.

“This needs input from many other sectors including the food industry, education, transport, local government, urban planners, the recreation and physical activity industries and community groups. All these groups have important roles and must make a commitment to doing their bit to facilitate healthier lifestyles and to make it easier for New Zealanders to make healthy life choices.”

OAC believes strong effective leadership, adequate funding and commitment across all the sectors will be necessary to make this plan effective.

“If any one of these aspects is missing, the plan will fail and the opportunity to turn the health of New Zealanders around will be missed,” Ms Murphy says. “We need the food industry to produce fewer high sugar, high fat foods, the media to be more responsible about advertising foods, especially to children, and schools must reinforce classroom health messages with effective food and physical activity policies. Regional authorities and urban planners must create towns for active people not cars and social agencies must concentrate their efforts on solving issues around poverty and poor nutrition.

“These things won’t happen just because they are written in a document. There must be strong leadership, accountability and collaboration between the different sectors to make them a reality and they won’t happen without money.”

The Ministry of Health estimates that 11,000 deaths a year are associated with poor nutrition and inactivity. “In the long term the costs of poor nutrition and inactivity will greatly exceed the cost of implementing the plan. The Government simply cannot afford not to fund this plan adequately nor can it afford to leave it foundering without strong leadership,” says Ms Murphy.

ENDS

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