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World Cancer Research Fund Report a challenge

Thursday 1 November 2007

World Cancer Research Fund Report a challenge to new health minister

The World Cancer Research Fund report on the role of food, nutrition and physical activity on the prevention of cancer provides a timely challenge for the incoming Minister of Health, according to University of Otago Wellington researchers.

Public Health researchers Professor Tony Blakely and Dr Caroline Shaw say new Health Minister David Cunliffe needs to commit to meaningful and rapid action on preventing cancer.

Dr Shaw says coverage of the World Cancer Research Fund report has emphasised personal responsibility, but the report also identifies societal changes.

“The population health goals of the World Cancer Research Fund show that current initiatives to improve diets and get people more active, such as the Mission-On programme, are only nibbling at the edges of what needs to be done. So far the Government has avoided doing anything really substantial such as dealing with the food and advertising industries in any significant way.”

To have any chance of achieving the goals of the World Cancer Research Fund Report, she says, dramatic changes in New Zealand society need to occur.

“We need to stop unhealthy food being advertised at all the times that children watch TV; increase the price of unhealthy foods (such as sugary drinks) and lower the price of healthy food; we need paid maternity leave for six months to help women breastfeed; and to force local government to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport – not building more roads.”

Dr Shaw says many of the recommendations in the report are similar to recommendations made in the recent Health Select Committee Inquiry into Obesity and Diabetes report.

“These goals are challenging. At the moment, the environment we all live in promotes poor nutrition, low levels of physical activity and obesity – this is reflected in the fact that half of New Zealand’s adults are overweight or obese.”

The report identifies a number of key goals for population health. These include:

- The proportion of the population that is overweight or obese to be no more than the current levels, or preferably lower in 10 years.
- The proportion of the population that is sedentary to be halved every 10 years.
- Population consumption of sugary drinks to be halved every 10 years.
- Proportion of the population drinking more than the recommended limits to be reduced by one third every 10 years.
- The majority of mothers to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.


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