Obesity, sport and New Zealand's big problem

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2013

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OPINION: Bike NZ announced last week it had gone into partnership with Coca-Cola to launch a campaign to get Kiwi teens active. The scheme is called Move 60 and is about encouraging people to be active for 60 minutes a day.

On the surface it seems like a good project. After all, according to the 2013 Ministry of Health annual report, which was released in June, more than a million New Zealand adults are obese.

That equates to 28 per cent of all Kiwis over the age of 15. In 1997, our obesity rate was 19 per cent.

Also of concern is that 62 per cent of Pacific Islanders are obese as are 44 per cent of Maori.

So, anything that can be done to address this problem should be, otherwise if the trend continues, the report says obesity would overtake tobacco use as the the leading risk factor for disease by 2016. Some may question, though, whether Coca-Cola is a good fit for New Zealand sporting organisations.

Companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald's say their products are fine when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. And, to be fair, they do both offer low-calorie options like Coke Zero and salads.

But a can of regular Coke contains 35 grams of sugar, which equates to six teaspoons.

Surely one of the best ways of reducing obesity in New Zealand would be to encourage people to reduce their intake of drinks containing sugar.

That might be difficult when companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald's are constantly dreaming up ways to promote themselves and their products to young people.

Just like McDonald's, which is involved with New Zealand Football, Coca-Coa wants to be seen as a good guy - as part of our communities.

In Brazil this year, McDonald's was fined $1.67 million for using advertising to target children.

Procon, the Brazil-based consumer agency that fined it, claims McDonald's consistently aimed its marketing at children not yet mature enough to make rational decisions.

In New Zealand, however, kids' soccer teams give out player of the day certificates, which allow the recipient a free cheeseburger at McDonald's. Is it like a handicap system to level out the kids? The good ones get lured to McDonald's and the not so good ones don't; maybe they'll eat an apple instead. And do we really want kids to aspire to winning a cheeseburger?

Sporting organisations in this country find it increasingly hard to get funding, but they do need to think carefully about who they partner with.

As the Ministry of Health's report proves, too many Kiwis aren't having a balanced diet. They're tempted by fast food and sugary drinks and the more these products are put in front of them, the bigger this serious problem will get.

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- Sunday News

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