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Obesity campaign could save thousands of lives

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

31 May 2006 Media Statement

Obesity campaign could save thousands of lives

Between 1,500 and 3,000 lives could be saved in just five years if the government moves rapidly to step up New Zealand's work to fight obesity, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Appearing before the Health Select Committee, Pete Hodgson made public for the first time advice he had received when deciding to pursue additional funding for the government's Healthy Eating, Healthy Action strategy in this year's budget.

The $76 million over four years announced in Budget 2006 will fund the largest campaign to fight obesity in New Zealand's history.

"New Zealand's obesity epidemic is our greatest public health challenge," Pete Hodgson said. "There's been a lot of talk about what the obesity epidemic will mean for the future of our public health system in terms of dollars and cents.

"But what's more important is the impact that it will have on New Zealand families. More New Zealanders are dying preventable deaths as a result of poor nutrition and lack of exercise than from any other factor, including smoking.

"The campaign that will get underway in the coming financial year will be focused on school and community-based initiatives, national leadership and better communication from the health community to all New Zealand families.

"While it's notoriously difficult to predict the success of big public health campaigns, the advice I have is that by just 2011 a major drive to fight obesity could save the lives of between 1,500 and 3,000 New Zealanders. That's an astonishing figure, particularly because our goals are very long-term – we're certainly not expecting to change the world in five years."

The potential numbers of lives saved is based on a preliminary analysis on the effect of acceleration of the government's work to implement the Healthy Eating, Healthy Action strategy. The range reflects the difficulty in predicting the effectiveness of each element of the campaign.

Pete Hodgson said that full details of the campaign will be announced throughout the financial year by the Ministers of Education, Health, Sport and Recreation and Youth Affairs.


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