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NZ: More sport won’t stop the obesity epidemic

Media Release, 11 August 2009

“Increasing physical activity is an excellent way of improving health for all individuals and sport has a role,” says Dr Robyn Toomath.

“The new Kiwisport initiative will be great for some kids, but we know that most won’t persist with organised sport once they leave school. We need to make it easier for everyone to be more physically active, including making the environment safer for walking and cycling instead of building cities around car users.”

Dr Toomath, a diabetes specialist, is also spokesperson for FOE (Fight the Obesity Epidemic). She was commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement today that $82 million is to be spent on children’s sport.

“We need to ask how the Government is going to measure the effectiveness of this investment as a means of increasing physical activity,” Dr Toomath says.

“Money has been stripped from Healthy Eating – Healthy Action programmes to fund Kiwisport. The government will need to demonstrate that large numbers of children across all of society are taking up and persisting with sport. Otherwise children will be worse off, and there will be greater health inequality.

“It’s ridiculous to claim that somehow this initiative brings more ‘balance’ to combating childhood obesity,” Dr Toomath says. Health Minister Tony Ryall claimed this in a recent radio interview when challenged about the government’s decision to allow junk food back into school canteens (Nine To Noon, 17 July 2009).

“We need to reduce the consumption of junk food and soft drink if we are to reduce childhood obesity. This will require a wide range of measures. The evidence in this regard comes from the progress made in reducing tobacco consumption.

“First off the rank should be stopping the advertising of junk food to children. If the Advertising Standards Authority’s current review doesn’t produce something radically different from its existing cosmetic and ineffective codes, the Government will need to step in and regulate.

“Another area where Government can provide leadership is by supporting the introduction of traffic light labelling for processed foods. Opportunities for this will come up over the next year as Australia and New Zealand jointly look at improving information on food packaging. A traffic light system will make it easier for shoppers to quickly distinguish more healthy and less healthy foods.

“And, of course, to increase sport in schools without reversing the decision to allow schools to again sell junk food would be ludicrous,” Dr Toomath says.

ENDS

Published on August 12, 2009 in FOE media releases