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High obesity rates need urgent action

FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic)

Media Release, 4 June 2008

High obesity rates need urgent action

The latest figures on obesity rates from the New Zealand Health Survey have been welcomed by Dr Robyn Toomath, spokesperson for FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic).

“It’s great news that the growth in obesity rates has levelled off for children, and has slowed for adults”, she said. “But the last thing we can afford is complacency. More than a quarter of adults are now obese whereas thirty years ago this figure was 10 percent. The impact of the large increase in recent years of overweight and obese children has yet to hit the health system so we need to work hard to not only slow but reverse the upward trend in obesity.”

“The report’s authors identified higher fast food and fizzy drink intakes as increasing the risk of obesity”, said Dr Toomath. “With respect to these key behaviours it is worrying to learn that most children consumed soft drinks and fast foods at least once in the week before being surveyed. One in five children drank 3 or more soft drinks in the week, and 7.2% ate fast food 3 times or more.”

“The report notes that television viewing is strongly associated with obesity in children. As well as being inactive, children are exposed to advertising and often eat energy-dense foods while watching. It is therefore disturbing that two-thirds of children watch TV for more than two hours a day, a level known to be associated with increased risk of obesity. And as well as being too sedentary at home, too may children are being driven to school.”

“The best news for our health is the turnaround in tobacco use”, Dr Toomath said. “This has been accomplished by an across-the-board approach including marketing restrictions and price increases. This same approach is urgently required to limit the impact of the marketing campaigns which have resulted in the high levels of fast food and soft drink consumption identified by this survey. I am delighted to see that 90% of New Zealand children eat breakfast at home. What the government needs to do now is to ensure that healthy food choices are the cheaper and easier option for all New Zealanders, all day.”


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