Need for action in fat battle
Manawatu health experts are calling for drastic measures to help solve the nation's obesity crisis, including paying employees to walk or cycle to work.
The New Zealand Medical Association's policy briefing Tackling Obesity, released today, reports New Zealand is the fourth most obese country in the OECD, with nearly two thirds of adults either overweight (34 per cent) or obese (31 per cent).
The NZMA recommends that obesity be recognised as a public health crisis and offers 10 measures aimed at doctors, politicians and policy makers.
Some of the key recommendations include community-based approaches to obesity complemented by policy initiatives, greater protection from marketing of unhealthy food, taxes to influence food consumption, nutrition guidelines in schools and consideration of health impacts on town planning.
Head of Massey University's School of Sport and Exercise Steve Stannard said people were "inherently lazy" and needed incentives to exercise. Novel approaches should be taken to help get them moving, Professor Stannard said.
"Big organisations should pay people to ride or walk to work. People would be more productive and have less sick days."
Stannard said people needed to be educated on nutrition and physical activity.
"It's partly their responsibility but it's also a societal responsibility. Once people are educated, then they can make a choice."
Stannard said encouraging physical activity with incentives was the only way to solve the problem.
"What it boils down to is physical activity. We can quantify taxes on things like fizzy drinks but it's harder to regulate physical activity."
Education on nutrition should also focus on adults, not just children, he said.
"A lot of the focus is on kids, but it's the parents filling the supermarket trolley. Kids are at the mercy of their parents."
Stannard agreed with the recommendation that local authorities should consider health impacts when designing and planning towns.
"Streets and housing estates were designed around cars . . . those days have to go, and local authorities play a big role in that."
Registered dietitian Gaye Philpott, from Nutrition Matters, said she agreed the country was in the midst of a public health crisis.
"We need to attack this on all fronts. From a legislative point of view, DHB point of view, looking at public health care, and on a personal and societal level," she said.
"We need to get on with the doing and make decisions . . . Everything points to physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables. That's a well recognised fact."