Relying on public to reduce obesity a ‘simplistic approach’ – professor

Weekend Life 14/07/2018
Photo: Getty.

Unhealthy food environments have been linked to New Zealand’s high obesity rates, based on a world-first study.

The three-year University of Auckland study revealed that food labelling, marketing, and affordability are key influences in creating an unhealthy environment for food choices.

Auckland University’s Professor Boyd Swinburn told RadioLIVE that relying on individuals to make healthy choices, thus dropping obesity rates, is not a realistic approach.

Mr Swinburn believes a sugar tax could help tackle obesity.

“What we have to do is to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice.

“The modus operandi at the moment is just let the market run and it’s up to individual choice. And that kind of simplistic approach is the model that we have now which is creating obesity and diabetes,” he said.

Mr Swinburn suggests the Government opt for a hands-on approach to tackle obesity, modelled after the likes of a petrol or tobacco tax.

“We have a set of policies which create environment which make the healthy choice the easy choice. That’s what we’ve got to do with food.”

Mr Swinburn believes introducing a sugar tax is one way to tackle the growing problem - something Diabetes New Zealand agrees with.

The most deprived communities in New Zealand have 73 percent more fast food and takeaway outlets than the least deprived communities. There are also 64 percent more convenience stores.

And when it comes to schools, there's 33 percent more fast food, convenience stores and takeaway outlets within 500 metres of the gates.

“I think the big gap at the moment is the lack of central direction and support for schools,” he said. 

Listen to the full interview with Boyd Swinburn above.

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