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Snapshot Of Health A Grim Picture

3 December 2003

Press Release

Snapshot Of Health A Grim Picture

The results of “A Snapshot of Health” report released by the Ministry of Health today again highlight overweight and obesity as a major problem in New Zealand.

More than fifty percent of the adult population is overweight. Twenty percent are obese.

One in 5 people report having high blood pressure, 1 in 7 high blood cholesterol levels and/or cardiovascular disease. Almost 1 in 10 report having diabetes, 1 in 3 have arthritis and 1 in 3 back pain. All of these problems can be caused, or exacerbated, by being overweight and obese.

Only half of adults are physically active for 30 minutes on most days as recommended and only around 4 out of 10 eat the recommended 5 servings a day of fruit and vegetables.

“New Zealanders need to eat better and be more physically active if they are to avoid getting these degenerative diseases as they age,” says Celia Murphy, Executive Director of the Obesity Action Coalition.

“It is not all that surprising that so many people are getting fat and unwell when you see that only half of adults get enough regular physical activity and so few eat the recommended number of fruit and vegetables a day.

“It is not just a matter of telling people to eat better and be more active, we need to change the way we live, our attitudes to food and activity and make it easier to do the right thing. Labour saving devices, reliance on cars for transport and sedentary leisure activities mean that we just don’t use up enough energy anymore.”

Ms Murphy says that this, combined with a food system which supplies a large range of high fat, high sugar foods and drinks that are more visible than better foods, makes it so hard for people to make the right healthy choices.

“The easy availability of the high fat and high sugar foods and the constant advertising of them leave people believing that it is normal to consume these foods regularly when they should be rare treats,” Ms Murphy says.

“There is no single solution to obesity and success in reducing the incidence of overweight and obesity and the associated illnesses will only come when government starts to take this problem seriously. It needs adequate funding and a high level collaborative approach.

“Changes must happen in our food supply system so healthy foods are more affordable and visible, schools, transport systems, the design of our urban areas, the hospitality industry, the media and our social welfare systems. Government must take this seriously and show leadership to encourage a multi-faceted attack on this problem. The economic and social costs of not acting now are really frightening.” says Ms Murphy.


The Obesity Action Coalition represents 60 organisations focused on health, nutrition and physical activity as well as Maori and Pacific health groups all interested in addressing the growing problem of obesity and its related health issues.

Its role is to advocate for a wide range of initiatives including government policy, regulations and legislation that will positively influence obesity rates.

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