The obvious answer to what to do about obesity is to eat less and to eat better foods. But many people obviously have difficulty with this, to the extent that obesity is being called an epidemic. There have been claims that due to obesity the trend of increasing life expectancy will reverse.
Stuff: For our Food for Thought series, we asked each party currently represented in Parliament how to improve Kiwis’ diets.
David Seymour: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor
One in three Kiwis are obese.
New Zealand’s biggest problem is our ease of access to cheap, delicious, high-calorie food. We’re a victim of our own success.
The strange reality of obesity is that it’s an epidemic of choice.
The problems start when kids are affected, when the poorest communities suffer disproportionately, and when healthy taxpayers have to fork out for other people’s heart surgeries.
Some suggest removing GST from fruit and veges.
Another popular idea is advertising restrictions.
And that brings us to the real issue: shielding people from real-world decisions sends them the message that they are dumb, and government is smart. “Don’t take responsibility for yourself, or your kids. Nanny state will handle that.”
So what can politicians do?
ACT’s solution is the same as our solution to other social problems: empowering people with greater opportunity. That includes, but is not limited to, a useful education, an engaging job in a growing economy, and a realistic shot at a place of your own for every single New Zealander.
There is no “solution”. There could and should be more done to reduce the problems of poor health due to overeating. But it is a very very difficult thing to deal with in practice. Going cold turkey isn’t an option.
Peter Dunne: Education the key to improving Kiwis’ food habits
The answer to attaining healthier eating habits is not to have the Government become the parent of our nation’s parents. Rather, UnitedFuture endorses education as the pathway to empowering New Zealand consumers to make choices that are the best for their and their family’s circumstances.
UnitedFuture has three key policy areas we want to see changes to ensure that information is both freely available and publicised:
* We would develop a national fund to sponsor programmes to promote better nutrition, particularly for children and youth;
* We would use the tools of Government to facilitate public education campaigns that emphasise the importance of nutrition and exercise and the consequences of poor nutrition, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature aging;
* We would support stronger consumer information rules by encouraging more information about food products to be published that are easily accessible by consumers (such as calorie count);
UnitedFuture has confidence in New Zealanders that they can make decisions that are right for them and their families when they are equipped with full information.
I see two major problems.
How do you educate the many people who are beyond school age? Compulsory night classes? Teaching kids at school is one possibility but for many school age is already too late, eating habits have already been established.
And education and knowledge doesn’t stop people from eating too much and it doesn’t stop people from making poor choices about what food they eat.
Many people know full well that scoffing junk food and gutsing too much is not good for their physical or mental health – depression and lack of self worth is a major factor in overeating, and it has a snowball effect as people approach the shape of a snowball.
Can growing obesity be stemmed? I really don’t know what would be effective.
It is very difficult to have any success telling someone not to eat as much.
After writing this I found more:
* Jonathan Coleman, National: Tackling obesity is a priority for the Government
* David Clark, Labour: Food labelling flaws make healthy eating hard for Kiwis
* Julie Anne Genter, Green Party: Government must help kids, not food corporations to tackle obesity
* Barbara Stewart, NZ First: Healthy eating a struggle for Kiwis
* David Seymour, ACT: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor
* The Maori Party did not take up our invitation to participate