New Zealand Government Faces Criticism for Inaction on Obesity and Diabetes

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New Zealand has alarmingly high rates of obesity and diabetes. Close to 12 top rung health experts today have criticized the country’s unfruitful efforts to control the diseases. The one dozen strong groups of health and medical experts have sent an open letter on Saturday to the New Zealand Medical Journal, warning them of the alarmingly high rates of the diseases. The letter also states that 63% of the adult population of New Zealand was obese and overweight and the country’s increased health spending is attributed to this high rate of obesity.

The letter quoted old data saying that between 1989 and 1997, an average adult New Zealander gained 3.2 kg of weight and the trend has been continuing ever since.  The letter openly criticized the kiwi government for axing healthy eating and obesity prevention programs and also cutting corners on providing healthy food in schools. The letter to the NZMJ states that the worst affected people by obesity and diabetes are the indigenous Maori and Pacific Islanders and those who belong to the “low-income” group. The kidney dialysis industry is a multi-million-dollar industry and the health officials feel that the industry thrives on the high rate of kidney disorders attributed to diabetes-related kidney dysfunction.

The health officials further stated in the letter that the government has failed the civilians by not being able to correctly address 80% of preventable diabetes in New Zealand. One of the signatories, Associate Professor Louise Signal, of Otago University, who is also a public health researcher, said that the kiwi government has cut down on many preventive programs and that is what is causing the country to suffer from obesity and diabetes.

She also said that the country has alarmingly high rates of diabetes and compares poorly with other OECD countries according to June edition of the Lancet (British Journal). She also said that a major chunk of the health budget (2 percent to 7 percent) was linked to people being overweight or obese. This percentage sums up to 12.6 billion NZ dollars which is equivalent to 10.48 billion U.S dollars.

The letter was not criticized the government, but also urged it to act on nine preventive actions that could reverse the trend in the country. It included a nutrition and physical activity strategy on WHO guidelines and also a message to the schools to sell only healthy food to children. The letter urged the authorities to ban selling junk food to children and also urged the low income groups to eat healthy as far as the resources permit. Nutrition labeling on food products was also stressed upon.