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Obesity strategy several steps short of adequate

27 November 2007

Obesity strategy several steps short of adequate

The Green Party says that the Government has taken an important step today by responding largely positively to the Health Select Committees' Inquiry into obesity and type two diabetes.

However Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says there are significant shortfalls in Health Minister David Cunliffe's response, which fails to agree with eight of the committees' recommendations.

"Obesity and type two diabetes are among the most serious public health threats facing New Zealand. With millions of dollars every year at stake, not to mention the tragedy of many lives being cut short due to obesity-related illnesses, the Government needs to pull out all the stops."

"The Government has rejected the committees' proposal for an independent commissioner and for much tighter controls on advertising to children. We are also disappointed that there has not been any clear commitment made to traffic light labelling.

"Half-hearted measures won't work. The clear message heard by the committee is that healthy options need to be easy options.

"There are significant positive moves, such as plans to fund 50 scholarships with a focus on Maori and Pacific needs, aimed at increasing the number of dieticians in the health workforce, and greater funding for a breastfeeding campaign."

Sadly however, the Minister's response fails to support extending paid parental leave to six months which would have been a big help for women wanting to breastfeed their babies for longer. Ms Kedgley encourages the Government to reconsider this issue now, not "at a later date" as the response indicates they intend.

"I am disappointed that Government is proposing to implement its plan through the Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) strategy, which the committee criticised for its lack national strategic approach.

"Only children attending schools up to decile two will be benefitting from free fruit, even though the committee had recommended that all schools be part of this programme.

"Protecting the health of our children is more important than protecting the interests of the food industry. The Government needs to summon some courage and insist that the food industry stop advertising unhealthy food to our children, Ms Kedgley says.

She says it is important that New Zealanders understand that the National Party has made it clear it would not take any real steps to address obesity and type two diabetes as it was not prepared to do anything that would get if offside with the food industry.


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