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King Speech: Healthy Eating-Healthy Action

Annette King Speech: Healthy Eating-Healthy Action implementation plan

Health Minister Annette King today launched the Healthy Eating-Healthy Action implementation plan, saying it provided a great opportunity to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce obesity.

Welcome to Parliament, and welcome to this special launch of the Healthy Eating-Healthy Action implementation plan.

Before I talk about the plan, I want to acknowledge all today's speakers, particularly our former friend from the Heart Foundation, Professor Boyd Swinburn, who is now professor for population health at Deakin University in Australia. Welcome back, Boyd.

The launch of the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action Strategy at St Annes School in March last year was one of my most enjoyable days as Minister of Health in 2003.

Director-General of Health Karen Poutasi, Deputy Director-General Public Health Don Matheson and I had great fun joining the St Annes pupils in a mass aerobics session after the launch, and at the end of that we knew we had done our share of healthy action for that day anyway.

Though Karen cannot be here today, Don is with us, and I can assure you Karen and I have been keeping up with each other on the "healthy action" front since last March.

In fact, we were given an extra incentive last month when we were both in Paris at the first ever meeting of OECD health ministers.

United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson was also there, and gave all the delegates a pedometer, which is a battery-powered device you attach to your belt and which counts the number of steps you take each day.

I am not disclosing whether Karen or I have taken the most steps since then, but it becomes a matter of pride to try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Since I launched the Strategy last year I have been eagerly anticipating the Implementation Plan. We can now get down to the real business of healthy eating and healthy action, and given what is happening around the world, it is not before time.

New Zealand is in the throes of an obesity epidemic, and research shows that this has not yet peaked. Early results from the New Zealand Health Survey indicate that more than half of adult New Zealanders are overweight, and of those 20 per cent are obese.

Results released last year from the National Children's Nutrition Survey show that one third of children are overweight, and of those nine per cent are obese.

Recent research also indicates that two out of five deaths each year are due to nutrition related risk factors such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity.

The implementation of Healthy Eating-Healthy Action gives us all a great opportunity to tackle these dismal statistics head-on by improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and reducing obesity.

Tackling the nutritional and energy balance of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer will pay significant dividends in the long term.

As Boyd will no doubt emphasise, many other countries are also targeting improved nutrition, physical activity and obesity as important health issues, and I was very pleased in May that the World Health Assembly ratified the Global Strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Implementation of Healthy Eating-Healthy Action or HEHA is New Zealand's most important response to that global strategy.

As is the case with so many health initiatives, the Ministry of Health cannot work in isolation. A collaborative approach across sectors offers the only real chance of success, and that is why it has been so important to involve so many individuals and groups in developing this implementation plan.

Four advisory groups have all contributed strongly to the plan:

• An external advisory group, made up of nutrition, physical activity, obesity and health promotion experts, with District Health Board input as well; • A government interagency group with representatives from various government ministries and agencies; • An industry group with representatives from the food, physical activity, media and advertising industries; and • An internal group including the Ministry of Health and Sport and Recreation New Zealand. Representatives from each of these groups are here today, and I want to specially acknowledge their work and commitment. I am looking forward to working alongside you in the future as we tackle all the challenges that still lie ahead, and I have especially appreciated the innovative approach of involving industry in the plan's development. I also want to thank Megan Grant and the Ministry team. Megan has worked particularly hard getting the groups together, and keeping the project on track. She has also managed to draw together a host of divergent ideas, and to assemble them in a coherent plan.

SPARC has also made a huge contribution to this plan, of course. Chief executive Nick Hill will be speaking shortly, but I am delighted the government agency is providing generous funding to implement the key physical activity initiatives in the HEHA plan. District Health Boards and NGOs have also been very supportive, and it would be difficult to find a better example of groups and individuals working together to achieve important health goals. The overall plan certainly provides a challenge. It identifies no fewer than 26 outcomes, and no fewer than 87 different actions needed to achieve these outcomes. Eleven of these actions have been identified as a Start Here list.

They include promoting nutrition, physical activity and obesity issues in preschools and schools; developing activities for promoting nutrition and physical activity in primary health care settings; developing and expanding community action programmes for high need groups; and developing and implementing a range of social marketing strategies.

Not all the work is new, of course. DHBs are already significantly involved in promoting nutrition, activity and healthy weight, and Bay of Plenty chief executive Ron Dunham will talk about this shortly.

At the start today I recalled launching the HEHA Strategy at St Annes School in Newtown last year, and I am pleased that St Annes pupils and staff are here today.

Under principal Doreen O'Sullivan's leadership, the school has made huge efforts to support healthy eating and physical activity, and has worked in partnership with Capital and Coast DHB's regional public health service to carry out many of the actions specified in the HEHA implementation plan well in advance of the plan even being written.

St Annes, a Health Promoting School, operates walking school buses to transport children safely to school. At the start of each day pupils have one of those aerobics sessions I enjoyed so much. Fresh fruit is available in the classrooms for children during the morning, the school has a water only policy, and there have been changes in the range of foods available through the school lunch order system.

The school also participates in a Home-School partnership programme initiated by the Ministry of Education, and Doreen uses this programme as an opportunity to cover health issues in discussion groups with parents. More recently, the school's public health nurse has initiated a new entrants' assessment programme where health risks such as obesity are screened for in five-year-olds, and relationships built with parents to deal with any issues raised.

Last week I spoke at Pulp Fiction - The Facts Harvested, the launch of the Cancer Society and SPARC research findings into attitudes toward physical activity and intake of vegetables and fruit.

That research provides much valuable insight, and is absolutely consistent with the actions in this implementation plan.

Before I briefly make some final points, I want to pass on some more thank yous --- to the Kapa Haka group from Wellington High School who will perform for us this afternoon, to staff and parents from that school, and also to MG Marketers for donating the apples that St Annes students have packaged for you today.

And thank you again to all the speakers today, and to everyone else who has taken the trouble to support this launch.

I talked earlier about the global nature of obesity issues, and in the past two days I have seen two widely different approaches toward the healthy eating-healthy action message emanating from the United States and from Australia.

Many of you may also have seen Gary Larson's Far Side cartoon in the Dominion Post yesterday. The cartoon depicted Ed's Jackhammer School, and featured five pot-gutted workers leaning on their jackhammers, and the equally large instructor shouting: "C'mon. Keep those stomachs over the handles! Let the fat do the work!"

And the other message was delivered by Australian Prime Minister John Howard who said Australian school children would have to exercise two hours a week for their schools to share in government initiatives to combat childhood obesity.

The HEHA implementation plan is New Zealand's own home grown, creative approach to dealing with issues of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, and I am delighted to officially launch it today.

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