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Cancer Society speaks out on Public Health Bill

19 April, 2008

Cancer Society speaks out on the Public Health Bill

It is estimated that about 75-80% of cancers can be attributed to lifestyle or the environment and because of this they are potentially preventable! In New Zealand the most significant and modifiable risk factors include tobacco smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation. For these very reasons the Cancer Society has endorsed the Public Health Bill before the health select committee at the moment.

In an oral submission Health Promotion Manager for the Society, Dr Jan Pearson said, “we endorse the bill because it recognises the importance of public health measures in the prevention of non-communicable diseases, and we welcome it as a most timely and important update of New Zealand legislation."

“The Bill, particularly its inclusion of new provisions aimed at reducing the risks of non-communicable diseases through powers to issue codes of practice and guidelines and make regulations, provides a critically important mechanism to reduce the incidence of cancer."

“People’s exposure to the risk factors is generally the result of a complex range of behavioural, social, economic and cultural factors that are not easy to change.

Therefore efforts to reduce the incidence of these lifestyle-related cancers require a comprehensive health promotion approach, which includes not just increasing individual awareness to change behaviour but also a regulatory or legislative approach to ensure that healthy choices are easy, she added.

“We consider it is essential that a proactive approach is taken. This is especially crucial for the protection of children as they are particularly vulnerable due to their limited ability to make genuine choices and are susceptible to the advertising of harmful products.

In its written submission the society is recommending the Bill is strengthened to include the principles of controlling the environmental causes of non communicable disease in New Zealand, that the functions of the Minister of Health and the Director General of Health be expanded to impose a duty to act to reduce risk factors for non-communicable disease and to impose binding and enforceable regulations, codes and guidelines to that effect.

“In 2004 there were over 8,000 deaths from cancer in New Zealand, an increase of 9.7% from 1995 and with our aging population, we know this number will continue to grow. We also know that in spite of the society’s advocacy for new drugs and technologies to diagnose and treat cancer that the country cannot afford to keep spending on diseases caused by unregulated unhealthy substances. This bill is a very good start to addressing some of the issues,” concluded Dr Pearson.

ENDS

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