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New book offers solutions to obesity crisis and major public health issues

Sun striking the Clocktower

Wednesday 15 July 2009 4:34pm

"Prevention is the best way to address the obesity crisis and reduce demands on the health system," says Dr Louise Signal from the University of Otago Wellington's Department of Public Health.

Dr Signal and colleagues from the University of Otago have just released a new book that highlights the success of specific New Zealand public health programmes in preventing obesity and other health problems. The book shows the considerable potential of health promotion to curb overweight and obesity, to improve people's health and reduce demands on health services.

New Zealand has the third highest obesity rate (26.5% of the population) in the OECD according to just released figures, but there is much that can be done to prevent this public health issue as this new book shows.

"This publication makes it clear that obesity is not inevitable in New Zealand and that public health programmes do work,"says Dr Signal.

"Obesity is the result of changes in the world in which we live, such as the increased availability and marketing of junk food. Just as obesity has emerged, so it can be addressed. We need to make changes to how food is marketed and enable people to eat well and and support them to exercise".

Ways that obesity and other public health issues can be managed by effective programmes are clearly detailed in the new book which is being launched in Wellington today.

Reviews of Health Promotion Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand 2007–2008[1] assesses a number of successful health promotion programmes, including the well established and long standing National Heart Foundation School Food Programme and the Green Prescription.

The highly successful National Heart Foundation School Food Programme assists schools to provide and promote healthy food to students.

The Green Prescription has successfully increased New Zealanders' level of physical activity by enabling health professionals to write patients' prescriptions for physical activity and support them to be active.

Other new programmes are detailed in the book such as the Active Schools Programme, which supports schools to keep children active, and the iMove Nekeneke Hi! Programme, encouraging children to walk or bike to school.

"We need to ensure funding for health promotion programmes to prevent obesity. If we cut funding to these programmes, we'll see hospital waiting lists continue to grow as more people need very expensive treatment for illnesses that could have been prevented," says Dr Signal.

The book will be launched today at 6.30pm at a health promotion symposium "Hauora - Everyone's Right 2009". The symposium is being held at the Brentwood Hotel, 16 Kemp Street, Wellington and will examine influences on health including global recession, global inequalities, global colonisation and global warming.

For further information contact

Dr Louise Signal
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington

[1] Signal, L., Egan, R., and Cook, L. (Eds.). (2009). Reviews of Health Promotion Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand 2007–2008. Auckland: Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand and Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit, University of Otago

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