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NZ: Public Health Bill surprises

The long awaited Public Health Bill was introduced into Parliament on 21 November 2007 and had its first reading on 12 December. The Bill then went to the Health Select Committee. Public submissions about the Bill close on 7 March 2008.

Make a submission using information from Parliament’s website.

What’s in the Bill for obesity prevention?

The Bill has a new part on non-communicable diseases such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The Director-General of Health will have the power to issue “non-binding rules and guidelines” to a sector on a particular activity. So the Director-General could issue directives to the food or advertising industries if their activities, such as marketing, sponsorship or advertising, pose a risk for non-communicable diseases. However, industry can ignore these if they believe compliance would be too expensive.

FOE strongly dislikes this approach because it provides little incentive for the food and advertising industries to make meaningful changes. Instead, we have been calling all year for the Bill to include the power to regulate against the obesogenic environment.

Great news

The great news is the surprise tucked away in the Bill. Our call for regulation-making powers has not fallen on deaf ears after all. Paragraph (x) of section 374 gives authority to the Government to make regulations to reduce risk factors associated with, or related to, non-communicable diseases. (See page 213 of the Bill.) Obesity clearly falls into this category.

We will be making a submission

FOE will be making a submission in support of Paragraph (x). We will call on supporters to do likewise.

Read the Bill
on Parliament’s website.

Find out what the politicians had to say during the Bill’s first reading.

Published on December 17, 2007 in New Zealand news,Public Health Bill