'New' health initiative familiar

Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014

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OPINION: Invercargill has been selected to take part in a government initiative titled Healthy Families. Didn't we do well?

Actually, no. To qualify has a lot to do with being on the wrong statistical side for preventable chronic diseases, high risk factors and levels of deprivation. And that's where Invercargill fits in, although when it gets to specifics it seems it's the south of the city that they have more particularly in mind.

If there's a helping hand here we'll take it but when the Ministry of Health calls this "a new initiative" we find ourselves looking askance for reasons other than the phrase's tautological chirpiness.

The initiative, it gushes, is to "improve people's health where they live, learn, work and play". Which does make you wonder where the hell they have been trying to reach people previously. While they were sleeping, maybe.

The rhetoric does get stale. On the one hand we have Minister Tony Ryall calling this a complete reform of the way we address underlying causes of poor health. But then he's trotting out what seems a tediously familiar series of steps.

Yessir, a locally-based lead provider will be responsible for bringing together a partnership of key organisations in the community and a dedicated health promotion workforce.

Hmmm. These unified-in-intent outfits will then "will work across schools, early childhood education centres, workplaces and sports clubs, supporting New Zealanders to make healthy living choices".

And this, somehow, is an initiative?

Actually, where this might deviate from the same-old same-old is that, as Ryall tells it, too often resources have been spread thinly across the country.

What's different is that this programme identifies a problem area and keeps the focus on what works inside it.

This has already been trialed in communities in Australia and France. In Victoria's Colac trial, don't you know, children aged between 4 and 12 now on average weigh one kilogram less, have smaller waistlines and a lower BMI than children in nearby towns.

At least the 10 communities in New Zealand have been chosen with an eye to geographical spread and an overall rural-urban mix, so there's no inherent assumption that what works in the East Cape, or Waitakere, will work in Invercargill.

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- The Southland Times

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