NZ grapples with weighty issues

MATHEW GROCOTT - DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Last updated 12:00 10/06/2014

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Obesity needs to be recognised as a public health crisis in New Zealand, say the authors of a new report.

Produced by the New Zealand Medical Association, Tackling Obesity, offers 10 measures to tackle obesity that should be adopted by doctors, health administrators and politicians.

The report states New Zealand is the fourth fattest country in the OECD with nearly two-thirds of adults either overweight or obese.

However, as two academics have pointed out in today's Manawatu Standard, there are serious issues with framing this discussion as one about obesity.

Rather, they argue, the focus should be on the likes of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, serious health issues that overweight people are more prone to.

It's important to note that overweight people can be in good health and skinny people in poor health, weight is not the only determining factor.

It's more complicated than that, as is the solution to the so-called "obesity epidemic".

It seems unlikely that education is the answer to encouraging people to live healthier lives.

It's hard to imagine too many people at a fastfood restaurant think they're having a balanced, healthy meal.

Likewise all overweight people are likely to know that a bit of activity would be good for them.

Most New Zealanders of a certain age received a visit from Harold the Giraffe and the Life Education Trust as a kid, where they learned about the food pyramid and what constitutes a "sometimes food".

There's only so much the Government can do, reducing the cost of fruit and vegetables, or placing a tax on sugar-rich drinks are policies that have been touted in recent years.

There's not a lot of evidence that either approach will have the desired result.

At the heart of the issue is motivation.

As the head of Massey University's School of Sport and Exercise said yesterday people are "inherently lazy" and need incentives to exercise.

Living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight are not simple processes. They require dedication and determination from each individual.

This latest report is unlikely to be that motivating factor.

It's up to each individual to find their own.

ONE MORE THING

It's starting to feel like an election year. On Saturday the Conservative Party opened an office in the city while the following day the Labour Party held a working bee at Iain Lees-Galloway's new campaign office. In just over three months the public will go to the polls. It should be an interesting few weeks.

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- Manawatu Standard

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