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Stronger and More Direct Diabetes Policies

31 May 2006

Diabetes New Zealand Call for Stronger and More Direct Diabetes Policies

Today, in its submission to the Health Select Committee’s Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Inquiry, Diabetes New Zealand insisted that all people at high risk of diabetes should be screened. Diabetes New Zealand also called for adequate diabetes treatment and well-funded prevention programmes.

“There is a compelling requirement for a comprehensive strategy including regulation, pricing and a powerful social marketing campaign be adopted if New Zealand is to reduce the obesity and Type 2 Diabetes epidemics,” said Murray Dear, President of Diabetes New Zealand.

“Overseas studies indicate that the persuasive approach to changing diet and lifestyle does not work for obesity, so initiatives such as the Ministry of Health’s ‘Healthy Eating Healthy Action’ plan are unlikely to have a major impact. Stronger and more direct measures are desperately needed and well overdue if New Zealand wants to halt this crisis.”

The key components of the package recommended by Diabetes New Zealand include:
o banning of the advertising of unhealthy food and beverages to children
o greater control over food and beverage sale in schools
o a tax on beverages high in sugar
o social marketing campaigns to encourage healthy diet and exercise
o policies to increase physical activity amongst young people

“Information and education may help, but experience in so many other countries is that only regulatory and pricing measures will substantively change behaviour – as has been illustrated by tobacco and alcohol.”

“There will be those that argue strong and direct policy measures are difficult to implement. That attitude must not prevail while the obesity and Type 2 diabetes crises continue to spiral. ‘Too difficult’ or ‘too hard’ will mean too late,” warned Mr Dear.

“The epidemic is here now, and under-resourced. We need national prevalence data on diabetes. At least 125,000 people are currently diagnosed with diabetes in New Zealand and 7,500 are diagnosed each year. Approximately 85% of these people have Type 2 diabetes – for which obesity is the major cause. Each year 4,500 die from diabetes.


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