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Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Nikki Kaye – playing politics with children’s health

16 February 2019 5 comments

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It is a given that most politicians will do whatever it takes to win voters to get elected. It’s pretty much why their reputation is often at the same level as telemarketers and sex-workers (which, fair to say, is a slight on sex workers and telemarketers).

The responsibility for our perceived untrustworthiness of politicians is generally laid directly at their feet, when they often say things that are;

  • a manipulation of facts/statistics
  • cherry-picks facts, omitting the whole picture
  • promises that are eventually watered-down or dumped entirely (eg, as with National’s policy to include agriculture in the ETS scheme in 2008, 2014, and 2015
  • convenient “memory lapses”
  • an outright, obvious lie

Our previous prime minister, John Key, could be flexible with the truth – and the public knew it.

The latest piece of self-serving political grandstanding came recently from National MP, Ms Nikki Kaye.

Usually one of National’s more sensible and mature MPs, she took a swipe at Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes’ call to restrict unhealthy foods sold in schools and instead opt for healthier options;

“Last year we saw 29,000 kids have their teeth pulled, obesity is going up – we are facing an epidemic – and our schools are still selling pies and cokes and chips and lollies.

I think we’re a food bowl in New Zealand. We could be providing nutritious, affordable food for every kid.”

Ms Kaye’s response was to drag out the old “Nanny State bogeyman;

“We need to acknowledge the world’s moved on since 10 years ago, so we need to acknowledge many more schools are providing healthy options and it is a bit nanny state.”

Her snide dismissal of addressing this crisis in our children’s health flies in the fact that obesity is a growing epidemic in our country. According to a recent statement from the Ministry of Health;

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and one in ten children.

Ministry of Health statistics show a grim increase in our obesity levels – including for our children;

Adult obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 3 adults (aged 15 years and over) were obese (32%)
  • 47% of Māori adults were obese
  • 65% of Pacific adults were obese
  • adults living in the most deprived areas were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as adults living in the least deprived areas*
  • the adult obesity rate increased from 27% in 2006/07 to 32% in 2017/18.

Child obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 8 children (aged 2–14 years) were obese (12%)
  • 17% of Māori children were obese
  • 30% of Pacific children were obese
  • children living in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas*
  • the child obesity rate increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 12% in 2017/18.

The increase in child obesity occurred under National’s watch and was not helped by then-Minister of Education, Anne Tolley and then-Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, who scrapped the previous Labour government’s Healthy Food in Schools policy;

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By 2038, an estimated two million New Zealanders will be obese, according to Otago University. The additional pressures on our health system with increased diabetes, heart disease, etc, will be staggering.

Even National could no longer ignore our worsening obesity epidemic. In October 2015, the Ministry of Health launched a Childhood obesity plan. The policy appeared largely ineffective as obesity levels grew.

And even Nikki Kaye understood the looming crisis, when she stated in April last year;

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“Physical inactivity cost New Zealand’s health care system over $200 million in 2013 and some research indicates that around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight.

The Education Minister needs to continue the Auckland Education Growth Plan which was being worked on by the previous Government and was due to be considered by Cabinet last November. It is important to look at the work done so far to factor in potential opportunities around sport and recreational infrastructure.

We must prioritise sport and recreation in our communities and Auckland Council and the Government must front up with more funding to support Auckland’s sporting infrastructure.

Nowhere does she address the grim reality that we are feeding crap “food” to our children.

National MPs would be hysterical with rage if marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, etc, was made legally available to children. Not for one moment would they accept the nonsensical proposition that banning children from accessing such drugs (whether legal or not) would be  “Nanny Statish”.

But when it comes to crap food with high levels of salt, fat, and sugar – then it’s acceptable to National MPs. It becomes a “free choice” issue. That’s despite a supposedly intelligent, well-informed person like Ms Kaye being cognisant of the fact that “… around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight”.

Referring to plans to combat rising obesity in our children should be a social responsibility, just as preventing drink-driving and smoking in restaurants and bars became the norm.

Labelling anything that reduced child obesity as “nanny state” is reprehensible because it plays politics with our young people. Invoking “nanny state” to win a few votes is self-serving.

A politician who casually parrots and throws around catch-phrases like “Nanny State” exploits the health of our children for personal gain.

Ms Kaye should reconsider her stance on healthy food in our schools. Or consider changing professions to something equivalent to political activity – but not likely to be a liability to our children’s health.

Try telemarketing.

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References

Bay of Plenty Times: So, just how trusted is your profession?

Scoop media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

Interest: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

NZ Herald: Agriculture ruled out in Emissions Trading Scheme review

TVNZ: Defiant John Key defends Cameron Slater texts: ‘I haven’t been caught out’

Mediaworks/Newshub: Public sides with Dotcom in poll

Mediaworks/Newshub: Green Party calling for return of food in school guidelines to keep kids healthy

Ministry of Health: Obesity

Ministry of Health: Childhood obesity plan

Ministry of Health: Obesity statistics

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

Fairfax/Stuff media:  Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

NZ Herald: Two million obese New Zealanders by 2038, study finds

National: Council & Govt must prioritise sport infrastructure

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 February 2019.

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We don’t want to send the wrong message – John Key

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One morning, on Monday, 15 August, Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner briefly interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader for the Checkpoint programme;

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john key on cannabis - radio nz - checkpoint - 15.8.16

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Subject; a recent poll  showing that 64% supported possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be  legal (33%) or decriminalised (31%). Only 34% of the 1,029 respondents  supported the current status quo of prohibition.

Espiner pointedly asked Key whether he thought cannabis should be decriminalised or legalised.

Key responded that he “was not a fan” of making cannabis legal.

Key referred to Parliament “sending a message” to society;

@ 0.38

“…Y’now, one of the things that Parliament does is send a message to people about, um, activity we want to see or not want to see. And, um, in the case of drugs, um, I think if we were, as Parliament, were to decriminalise then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased drug use is ok.”

@ 1.20

“…We see longer sentences for instance for domestic violence because we’re, um, trying to send a message as a Parliament that we’re deeply opposed to the domestic violence statistics in New Zealand [and] we’re going to do something about it.”

Dear Leader stuck to his spin-doctored script, using the phrase, “sending a message”, three times.

So the National-dominated Parliament was “sending a message”?

Key’s rationale, as he stated at around 0.38 into the interview was “ were to decriminalise then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased drug use is ok“.

Really?

Are “messages” from Parliament to the rest of New Zealand critically important?

The previous Labour Government also intended that a  “message” was sent from Parliament  to our children, back in 2008;

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As I wrote back in November 2015;

As with taxing tobacco products in New Zealand – a method proven to work – increasing the price of an unhealthy product reduces consumption. Especially amongst the poor, who are particularly susceptible to pernicious marketing and supply of cheap, unhealthy ‘foods’. A Parliamentary report here in New Zealand showed that obesity was especially prevalent in lower socio-economic areas;

In 2012/13, a Ministry of Health-led survey estimated that three out of ten New Zealand adults were obese (31.3%), an increase of 2.7% from 2011/12  and an increase of 18.6% in the 25 years since 1989   Obesity rates were highest amongst Pacific adults (68%) and Māori adults (48.3%).

The same survey found that after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity, adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 1.5 more times as likely to be obese as those living in the least deprived areas.

However, our esteemed ‘Health’ Minister, Dr (!) Jonathan Coleman was/is not convinced.

On 28 June, last year, speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A, Dr Coleman said;

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Not necessarily. No, the evidence doesn’t show that. If you look at the evidence for sugar tax, right, it shows actually it’s very low in terms of disability-adjusted life years lost, so that’s basically saying that, look, there’s no evidence that it’s going to end up with people living longer, healthier lives. What there is evidence for is actually eating less and exercising more, and so I’m focusing my efforts on education, getting people to actually live more healthy, active lifestyles. Sugar taxes get a lot of attention. No evidence that it works.

Four months later, in an interview with Dr Jonathan Coleman, on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 October;

Patrick Gower: Looking at a soft-drink tax –why not?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks.

Patrick Gower: And consumption dropped. That’s evidence, isn’t it?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect, so there were other things going on – a tanking Mexican economy, $30 billion drinking-water programme. It’s also not clear if there’s substitution to other beverages. So we’re saying, look, you know, there’s some evidence that’s being assessed – it’s going to be reported on in 2017 at Waikato University as well as the University of North Carolina – but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to.

Patrick Gower: Well, the World Health Organization, which put out that major report recently, led by our own Sir Peter Gluckman, you know, that has said, and I will quote it for you, ‘The rationale and effectiveness of taxation measures to influence consumption are well supported by available evidence.’

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, they might be talking about a decrease in sales. But what we want to know about is – is there a link to obesity directly? So, for instance, there might be a decrease in consumption of soft drinks, but are people drinking more flavoured milk? Are they drinking beer as a substitution? What is says in that report is that, actually, there isn’t clear evidence. On balance, they recommend it, but, look, that’s the WHO, you know? You would expect that they would take a very purist view. And I met with the commissioners personally. I talked to Sir Peter Gluckman.

Patrick Gower: What about this for evidence? If a tax doesn’t work or there’s no evidence for it, what about with cigarettes? Because your own government’s putting up the price of cigarettes and saying that that is working to stop smoking.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, that’s a different issue. So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption, but what I’m interested in is – will that decrease obesity? So say, for instance, we tax something. You might drink less Coke, but are you drinking beer or flavoured milk instead?

This was an interesting exchange between Gower and Coleman. Note that his first contention is that sugar taxes do not work;

“Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks […]  Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect […] but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to…

But only a few seconds later, Coleman makes this startling admission;

“So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption…”

That was a slip on his part. The National Party politician in Dr Jonathan Coleman was instructed to parrot the official line: ‘there is no evidence that sugar taxes work‘ (even though that is precisely the same mechanism used to reduce tobacco consumption).

As I then asked;

What could be wrong with providing healthy food options for our children? Who could possibly object to fighting obesity in our youngest citizens, who are vulnerable to the highly-processed, addictive, sugary and fatty foods that are a plague on Western (and increasingly developing) contries?

Who indeed…

Need we ask? And are we surprised?

It was 2009, and National was in power;

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Two and a half years later, the consequences were predictable, dire, and costly;

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more-weight-loss-surgery-funded

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By April 2016 – seven years after National scrapped Labour’s healthy-foods-in-schools legislation, the cost of weight-loss surgery has continued to escalate;

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Dollars up as pounds go down for funded weight loss surgery

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Which raises the fairly obvious question; what message was Parliament (ie; National) sending to our children in March 2009, when it abandoned the campaign to implement healthy food options in our schools?

What “message” was Parliament (ie; National) sending to all New Zealanders?

To paraphrase John Key’s statement to Guyon Espiner on 15 August;

“…Y’now, one of the things that Parliament does is send a message to people about, um, activity we want to see or not want to see. And, um, in the case of unhealthy, disease-causing foods, um, I think if we were, as Parliament, were to permit unhealthy foods in schools then one of the messages we’d be sending is that increased obesity use is ok.”

That would be a good message to send.

I look forward to it.

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Is there appetite for change on legalising cannabis?

Radio NZ: Majority back decriminalisation of cannabis use, poll suggests

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

NZ Treasury: Increase in Tobacco Excise and Equivalent Duties

Parliament: Research papers – Obesity and diabetes in New Zealand

Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE): NZ: National reversal on healthy food in schools “incredible”

TVNZ Q+A: Coleman – We’ll tackle obesity but no tax or legislation

TV3 The Nation: Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

World Health Organisation: Healthy diet

Fairfax media: Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

Radio NZ: More weight loss surgery funded

Sunday Star Times: Dollars up as pounds go down for funded weight loss surgery

Other Blogs

Politically Corrected NZ: Keywi integrity at it’s finest

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

When is ‘Nanny State’ not a ‘Nanny State’?

From “Nanny” State to “Natzi” State?

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

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bad food government nz

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 August 2016.

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Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman

1 November 2015 4 comments

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In June 2008, the then-Labour government – realising that child obesity was becoming a major health and social problem – moved to reduce the availability of unhealthy foods from schools;

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What could be wrong with providing healthy food options for our children? Who could possibly object to fighting obesity in our youngest citizens, who are vulnerable to the highly-processed, addictive, sugary and fatty foods that are a plague on Western (and increasingly developing) contries?

Who indeed…

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2009

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Schools' healthy food rule scrapped

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Yes, folks, evidently ensuring that the next generation of New Zealanders do not die  prematurely from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc, etc, from eating processed sugar/fat/salt-laden “food” is  now officially “nanny statism“. Apparently, then-Education Minister, Anne Tolley*,  was suffering deep angst over sausage sizzles;

“There was a great deal of angst about things like, when you’re having a school gala, can you have a sausage sizzle on site, can you lay down a hangi?”

Which raised the obvious question; were schools holding sausage sizzles every single school day, and feeding charcoalled ‘bangers’ to kids?

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2011

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As National maintained a  hands-off stance to our growing obesity problem, the consequences became obvious;

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According to the Ministry of Health;

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and one in ten children.

This is unsurprising. Doing nothing about obesity and refusing to act decisively on combating a torrent of cheap, unhealthy “food”, has it’s natural consequences.

What is surprising to this blogger is that National has not tried to curtail or ‘massage’ Health Ministry data-collection on this problem, as it has done with child poverty. Or Crime statistics (more on this in an up-coming blogpost).

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2015

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One of the best strategies for reducing consumption of unhealthy food such as sugary carbonated drinks is to tax the product.

Mexico implemented a 10% tax on ‘fizzy’ drinks on 1 January 2014. This was was enacted as Mexican authorities realised the gravity of growing  obesity and related problems amongst their people;

Campaigners and public health experts are watching closely to see what impact Mexico’s tax has on consumption. Mexico, where 32.8% of the population is obese, is now the country with the biggest weight problem in the world, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, overtaking the United States. The impact on health has been serious – 14% of the population has diabetes. Rates of high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart attacks, are also high.

It worked.

A year and a half later, and the consumption of ‘fizzy’ drinks has dropped by   6% to 12% in the first year;

A tax on Coca-Cola and other sugar-sweetened drinks in Mexico has succeeded in bringing down sales, which experts hope will help curb the nation’s obesity problem.

The 10% tax was implemented on 1 January 2014 after a battle with the beverage industry. More than 30% of the Mexican population is obese and a love of Coca-Cola and other sugary drinks has been held at least partly responsible. The average Mexican drinks the equivalent of 163 litres of Coca-Cola a year, or nearly half a litre a day.

The Mexican National Institute of Public Health and the University of North Carolina have now carried out an evaluation of the impact of the tax, which shows it cut purchases by an average of 6% across 2014, and by as much as 12% in the last part of the year.

The effect was greatest on lower-income households, who cut their purchases by an average of 9% across the 12 months, and by 17% in the later months. The impact appears to be similar to that of taxes on tobacco and other goods that are hard to give up, where the drop in sales increases over time.

As with taxing tobacco products in New Zealand – a method proven to work – increasing the price of an unhealthy product reduces consumption. Especially amongst the poor, who are particularly susceptible to pernicious marketing and supply of cheap, unhealthy ‘foods’. A Parliamentary report here in New Zealand showed that obesity was especially prevalent in lower socio-economic areas;

In 2012/13, a Ministry of Health-led survey estimated that three out of ten New Zealand adults were obese (31.3%), an increase of 2.7% from 2011/12  and an increase of 18.6% in the 25 years since 1989   Obesity rates were highest amongst Pacific adults (68%) and Māori adults (48.3%).

The same survey found that after adjusting for age, sex, and ethnicity, adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 1.5 more times as likely to be obese as those living in the least deprived areas.

However, our esteemed ‘Health’ Minister, Dr (!) Jonathan Coleman was/is not convinced.

On 28 June, speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A, Dr Coleman said;

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Not necessarily. No, the evidence doesn’t show that. If you look at the evidence for sugar tax, right, it shows actually it’s very low in terms of disability-adjusted life years lost, so that’s basically saying that, look, there’s no evidence that it’s going to end up with people living longer, healthier lives. What there is evidence for is actually eating less and exercising more, and so I’m focusing my efforts on education, getting people to actually live more healthy, active lifestyles. Sugar taxes get a lot of attention. No evidence that it works.

Four months later, in an interview with Dr Jonathan Coleman, on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 October;

Patrick Gower: Looking at a soft-drink tax –why not?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks.

Patrick Gower: And consumption dropped. That’s evidence, isn’t it?

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect, so there were other things going on – a tanking Mexican economy, $30 billion drinking-water programme. It’s also not clear if there’s substitution to other beverages. So we’re saying, look, you know, there’s some evidence that’s being assessed – it’s going to be reported on in 2017 at Waikato University as well as the University of North Carolina – but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to.

Patrick Gower: Well, the World Health Organization, which put out that major report recently, led by our own Sir Peter Gluckman, you know, that has said, and I will quote it for you, ‘The rationale and effectiveness of taxation measures to influence consumption are well supported by available evidence.’

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, they might be talking about a decrease in sales. But what we want to know about is – is there a link to obesity directly? So, for instance, there might be a decrease in consumption of soft drinks, but are people drinking more flavoured milk? Are they drinking beer as a substitution? What is says in that report is that, actually, there isn’t clear evidence. On balance, they recommend it, but, look, that’s the WHO, you know? You would expect that they would take a very purist view. And I met with the commissioners personally. I talked to Sir Peter Gluckman.

Patrick Gower: What about this for evidence? If a tax doesn’t work or there’s no evidence for it, what about with cigarettes? Because your own government’s putting up the price of cigarettes and saying that that is working to stop smoking.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, that’s a different issue. So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption, but what I’m interested in is – will that decrease obesity? So say, for instance, we tax something. You might drink less Coke, but are you drinking beer or flavoured milk instead?

This was an interesting exchange between Gower and Coleman. Note that his first contention is that sugar taxes do not work;

“Because, actually, there’s not the conclusive evidence, right? There might be a correlation in those Mexican studies, so they put a 9% tax on soft drinks […]  Sales decreased, but it’s not clear if that’s a correlation or a causative effect […] but there isn’t any direct evidence of causation that anyone can point to…

But only a few seconds later, Coleman makes this startling admission;

“So, yes, if you put a tax on something, it will decrease consumption…”

That was a slip on his part. The National Party politician in Dr Jonathan Coleman was instructed to parrot the official line: ‘there is no evidence that sugar taxes work‘ (even though that is precisely the same mechanism used to reduce tobacco consumption).

But the other part of Dr Jonathan Coleman – the doctor part – knew deep in his soul that a tax on anything will affect consumer behaviour. There is a part of Jonathan Coleman that, as a doctor of medicine, wants to help people, and National’s luke-warm, ineffectual “22 initiatives” will not placate that desire in him.

As bad as those “22 initiatives” are, National has heaped insult upon injury by funding the policy  “from within existing health, sport and education budgets“.

Millions will be taken from health, sport, and education, to fund a policy of “initiatives” that are a sop to the sugar and food industry, and not designed to address the problem at it’s core; the widespread availability of cheap, unhealthy, sugar/fats/salt-laden ‘food’.

How many hip replacement operations or classroom re-builds were sacrificed or postponed, to fund this rubbish “initiative package”?

It is interesting that Dr Coleman has rejected implementing a tax on sugary drinks and other foods because of a “lack of evidence”.

In March 2009, National scrapped the previous Labour governments healthy-food-in-schools programme. This allowed school cafetarias/”tuck” shops – many run by private companies – to again return to the practice of selling unhealthy foods to children.

When Corin Dann challenged Dr Coleman on Q+A on 28 June, he said;

“You reversed the rules on the tuck shops, on the canteens at schools, so there’s sugary foods and all that sort of stuff gone back in there.”

To which Minister Coleman replied;

“That’s because they weren’t working.”

If that is the rationale used by Jonathan Coleman to justify wrecking the healthy-food-in-schools programme, then the Minister should be deeply, deeply ashamed of himself.

The policy had been in effect only nine months (see above screen-grabs, 2008 and 2009). There was simply insufficient time to assess the programme. Of course there was “no evidence” – the programme was aborted before it could be gathered!

By comparison, the Mexican sugar tax has been in effect since 1 January 2014 – nearly two years. Consumption of carbonated sugar drinks has fallen dramatically.

The evidence exists: sugar taxes, like tobacco taxes, work.

But this is not about “evidence” at all. If National was keen on gathering evidence, it would have permitted Labour’s healthy-food-in-schools programme to continue until it could be properly evaluated.

If National was interested in evidential-based policies, it would be studying the Mexican result keenly.

And if National valued the advice from it’s own science-advisor, Dr Peter Gluckman, it would listen. As Dr Gluckman pointed out on 30 July, on TV3;

“The issue around these taxes is, how much tax would you have to put in to change behaviour? I think they’re a really important signal, and it does look from the preliminary evidence from Mexico that taxes on sugary beverages do reduce consumption.

No, evidence does not factor in National’s actions.

This is about corporations; profits; and free-market ideology. As former-NZ Herald columnist, Dita De Boni wrote in her excellent piece on obesity, on 3 July;

“If we are intent on reducing health spending on obesity, it will come – but only when political ideologues like Jonathan Coleman and the food lobby are comprehensively uncoupled.”

In this instance, evidence is not only not welcome by National, it is downright embarrassing.

Parents throughout the country should be alarmed at what this government is doing. Or, more accurately; not doing.

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Postscript

Former-NZ Herald columnist, Dita De Boni wrote an incisive piece on obesity, on 3 July – “Giving us a fat chance against obesity“. Ever insightful, and a master at prose and skilled, liberal use of facts, Ms De Boni’s column was scathing of National’s do-nothing stance on our growing obesity crisis.

Further down the online page, in the Comments section, was this chilling, prophetic comment left by “Cathy”;

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nz herald - cathy - dita de boni

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Ms De Boni was dumped from NZ Herald on 10 August. “Budgetary considerations” were given as the official reason.

“Cathy” would do well with Lotto or putting bets on horses.

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References

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

World Health Organisation: Healthy diet

Fairfax media: Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

Radio NZ: More weight loss surgery funded

Ministry of Health: Obesity

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

NZ Herald: ‘Ghost crime’ stats may be probed

The Guardian: Mexico enacts soda tax in effort to combat world’s highest obesity rate

The Guardian: Mexican soda tax cuts sales of sugary soft drinks by 6% in first year

NZ Treasury: Increase in Tobacco Excise and Equivalent Duties

Parliament: Research papers – Obesity and diabetes in New Zealand

Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE): NZ: National reversal on healthy food in schools “incredible”

TVNZ Q+A: Coleman – We’ll tackle obesity but no tax or legislation

TV3 The Nation: Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

National Party: Dr Jonathan Coleman

Facebook: Dr Jonathan Coleman – 22 health initiatives

TV3: Don’t rule out sugar tax – PM’s chief scientist

Additional

NZ Herald: Dita De Boni – Giving us a fat chance against obesity

Other Blogs

The Pundit: Children’s Commissioner fronts for Nats on food in schools: Corporate agenda rules

The Daily Blog: Has the Government manipulated Corrections statistics as well?

Brooking Blog: Corrections cuts crime with the selective use of statistics

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

When is ‘Nanny State’ not a ‘Nanny State’?

From “Nanny” State to “Natzi” State?

You’ll have a free market – even if it KILLS you!

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

*Also on Anne Tolley

Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

The law as a plaything

A fitting response to National MP’s recent personal attacks on Metiria Turei

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 October 2015.

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Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

30 September 2011 6 comments

First, let me bore you all with some stats, facts, and figures,

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This page provides introductory facts and statistics about obesity in New Zealand. For more information, refer to A Portrait of Health: Key Results from the 2006/2007 New Zealand Health Survey.

Obesity statistics for New Zealand adults

The 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • One in four adults were obese (26.5%)
  • 41.7% of Māori adults were obese
  • 63.7% of Pacific adults were obese
  • 11% of Asian adults were obese
  • Pacific men and women were two and a half times more likely to be obese than men and women in the total population.
  • Māori men and women were one and a half times more likely to be obese than men and women in the total population.
  • There has been an increase in the prevalence of obesity for men and women from 1997 to 2006/07, adjusted for age, but the rate of increase appears to be slowing.

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Obesity statistics for New Zealand children

The 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey found that:

  • One in twelve children (aged 2 to 14 years) were obese (8.3%).
  • One in five children were overweight (20.9%).
  • There has been no change in the average (mean) BMI for children aged 5-14 years since 2002.
  • There has been a decrease in average BMI for Māori children.
  • Adjusted for age, Pacific boys and girls were at least 2.5 times more likely to be obese than boys and girls in the total population.
  • Māori boys and girls were 1.5 times more likely to be obese than boys and girls in the total population.

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Other statistics

  • Nine out of ten (87.8%) children aged from birth to 14 years have ever been breastfed.
  • Nine out of ten (87.8%) children aged 2-14 years ate breakfast at home every day in the past 7 days.
  • Two out of three (63.6%) children had fizzy drink in the past 7 days. One in five (19.6%) children had three or more fizzy drinks in the past seven days.
  • Seven out of ten (70.9%) children ate fast food in past seven days. One in seven (13.6%) ate fast food twice in past seven days and one in 14 (7.2%) had eaten fast food three or more times in past seven days.
  • Two out of three (64.1%) children aged 5-14 years usually watched two or more hours of television a day. This equates to 368,700 children.
  • Two out of every three adults (64.1%) ate the recommended three or more servings of vegetables each day, and two out of three adults (60.0%) ate the recommended two or more servings of fruit a day.
  • One in seven adults (13.6%) reported that they were currently taking medication for high blood pressure. This equates to 425,500 adults.
  • One in 12 adults (8.4%) were currently taking medication for high blood cholesterol.
  • One in 20 adults (5.2%) had been diagnosed with ischaemic heart disease.
  • The prevalence of diabetes in children was 0.2% which means that approximately 1700 children had been diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor (most probably type 1).
  • One in 20 adults (5.0%) had doctor-diagnosed diabetes (excluding diabetes during pregnancy). This equates to 157,100 adults. Nine out of every ten adults with diabetes were diagnosed when they were 25 years or older, and almost all will have type 2 diabetes.
  • After adjusting for age, Pacific men and women had three times the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes than men and women in the total population.
  • Just under half of children (47.0%) aged 5-14 years usually use active transport to get to and from school (walking, biking, skating or using other forms of physical activity). Common reasons given by parents for what stops their children walking, biking or skating to school – live too far from school, busy traffic/main road, too dangerous for reasons other than traffic, takes too long.
  • Half of all adults (50.5%) met the definition of being regularly physically active. Overall one in seven (15.0%) adults were sedentary, reporting less than 30 minutes of physical activity in the previous week.

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Like nearly every other Western (and non-Western) society, New Zealanders are putting on the kilos. The problem of obesity starts young in our lives, as we consume sugary, fatty, highly-processed foods – and usually ends in heart disease, diabetes, and early death. The last bit – early death – is usually the worst.

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In fact, obesity has become an epidemic in the West. This is not helped by the fact that over-eating can be as addictive as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, drugs, etc. A ‘Time‘ article, last year stated,

But what shocked the researchers was that extended-access rats also showed deficits in their “reward threshold.” That is, unrestricted exposure to large quantities of high-sugar, high-fat foods changed the functioning of the rats’ brain circuitry, making it harder and harder for them to register pleasure — in other words, they developed a type of tolerance often seen in addiction — an effect that got progressively worse as the rats gained more weight. “It was quite profound,” says study author Paul Kenny, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute. The reward-response effects seen in the fatty-food-eating mice were “very similar to what we see with animals that use cocaine and heroin,” he says.” Source

Science is confirming what many of us had already intuited; that obesity was not simply a matter of “will power” or exercise – any more than “self-discipline” is for alcoholics or gamblers. There is much more going on, in the depths of our brains, that is affected by what we are eating – and vice versa.

By June, 2008, the previous Clark-led government courageously attempted to halt the obesity epidemic. Despite being sensitive to criticisms of “nanny statism”, their policy was not to ban junk food throughout the country. Nor to force feed us with vegetables and fruit. And not to frog-march us up and down our streets with battalions of Exercise Police.

Their plan was simply to cut crappy food out of our school ‘tuck’ shops.

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You would think that this modest proposal would have been welcomed by sensible people who understood the problem, and realised that what we fed our children early in their lives would have an impact on their later years? Sensible, right?

Oh hell no. That would require common sense; foresight; and a strong sense of community responsibility.

In the above article, Secondary Principals’ Association president, Peter Gall said “ secondary school principals would generally have preferred an educational approach to improving nutrition, rather than Government rules which “can seem a bit heavy-handed“. ”

I wonder if Mr Gall considers it “heavy handed” when we deny our children access to cigarettes and alcohol? After all, if it’s “heavy handed” to try to provide healthier food options for our children, then let’s go hell-for-leather and give 10 year olds a six-pack of  DB Bitter for breakfast. We can always try an “educational approach” later?

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Unfortunately for us – but more unfortunate for our children – this bizarre attitude of Individual Responsibility won out over Community Proactivity. The National Party was perhaps chief amongst culprits, as it began a smear campaign of “nanny statism” against the then-Labour Government.

Headlines such as “National slams ‘nanny-state’ health bill“; “National Party: Public health bill in ‘nanny state’ realm“; and ” ‘Nanny state’ fears on health bill” filled our media. Irrational comments like this, became the mainstream ‘narrative’ of the debate, “”National said the codes were regulations by stealth as they could be converted into law if the Health Ministry did not think the voluntary codes were working.  Codes could cover a range of things from what could be in a school lunchbox, to physical activity and food advertising.”Source

Gosh,  and just think; if Labour has it’s wicked way,  our kids might not become obese!! Shock! Horror!

In November 2008, National was elected into power, and John Key became our Prime Minister.

Even as the world was facing a global banking crisis, and recession was impacting on nearly every nation on Earth, the new National government still found time to reverse Labour’s evil plan to reduce obesity amongst our children.  In March 2009, National scrapped the healthy foods in schools policy,

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You have to read that article in it’s entirety to grasp the full flavour of lunacy involved in the ‘rational’ behind National’s decision.

There was simply no coherent, logical reason offered except, as Education Minister Anne Tolley said, “It’s not teachers’ responsibility to act as food police. If we want to start changing behaviour, that’s got to start happening at home.

Riiiight. The same goes to allowing our children to have access to a couple of shots of bacardi as well?

Never mind that Wellington nutritionist, Sarah Burkhart, said that,  “[A pie] isn’t a high carbohydrate food source. That’s actually one of the worst things you could [eat].” Source

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Oh no, because neo-liberal politicians know better than nutritionists. We are going to have Freedom of Choice Even If It Damn Well Kills Us (and our children). Essentially, that is precisely the message that National gave New Zealanders two years ago.

Thankfully, some school’s exhibited far more maturity on this issue than our brain-dead politicians and Wellington College deputy principal Dave Ashby said the college would probably keep its new healthy menu,

“Schools have got a responsibility to young people. I don’t think we’re going to chuck it all in now.” Source

Thank you, Dave “Common Sense” Ashby.

However, leaving these matters to the whims of individual schools is not a solution. It means that some schools  simply won’t bother; they will defer decision making further “down the food chain”,  to our children.

It certainly  sends conflicting messages to the community.

And National’s over-turning of Labour’s policy also shows a total lack of any measure of leadership on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue” – it is a problem).

On 27 February, the New Zealand Medical Association released a statement, condemning the National Government’s Do Nothing approach. They described Anne Tolley’s actions as “incomprehensible”. Despite it’s length, I will re-print their statement in full. It is worthwhile spending ten minutes to read it,

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Our reasons for opposing removal of the clause follow.
  • The Minister, Hon Anne Tolley, states that the core business of schools is to provide students with a “quality…learning environment”.1 Students cannot be expected to benefit fully from such an environment if they are inadequately nourished or experiencing poor health because of poor nutrition. Research suggests that good nutrition is associated with better overall school and academic performance, intelligence, and psychosocial functioning.2–4 Thus, a healthy school food environment seems imperative for a quality learning environment.
  • The Minister states that boards of trustees can “make their own decisions about appropriate food and drink options”.1 However, the reason the clause was introduced was that school food under boards of trustees was not sufficiently nutritious. A study in 2007 by Utter et al showed an association between use of school canteens in New Zealand and more frequent consumption of high fat and high sugar foods. 5 An earlier study by Carter et al found that the most commonly available foods in primary schools were pies (79%), juice (57%), and sausage rolls (55%).6 There were over five times more unhealthy meals on offer than healthy meals, and filled rolls (a healthy option) were the most expensive item.
  • It is unrealistic to expect boards to have the detailed nutrition knowledge necessary to ensure an appropriate and healthy food service, especially with their already heavy workload. The Minister’s decision means that whilst schools are still required to promote healthy foods, they must determine what foods are healthy and, of greatest concern, can continue to sell unhealthy food. This is contradictory and suggests ‘do as I say, not as I do’ to children.
  • Relying on education alone has not worked for other public health issues such as smoking, seat belts, cycle helmets, and drink driving, which ultimately required regulation to bring about positive changes in behaviour.7 There is no reason to think education will work any better for tackling our obesity problem. If we expect people to eat healthily, the environment must be changed to “make healthy choices the easy choices”.8
  • Relying on nutrition education alone also assumes there is free choice in school canteens. However, food choices are constrained by the environment. If all that is available is food that is unhealthy and heavily promoted in the media, or if healthy foods are more expensive, then students don’t have a true choice. Furthermore, younger children can not be expected to make rational choices about food based on health.
  • Development and implementation of the Ministry of Education’s guidelines on ‘Food and Nutrition for Healthy, Confident Kids’9 was the result of a prolonged and extensive amount of work on the part of government, schools, health sector, and the food industry. That expense and resource was well justified given the potential long-term gains, but has now been completely wasted, without even evaluating its potential success.
  • The Minister has also stated that there is confusion about the guidelines amongst schools.1 However, this could be resolved given sufficient time to work with schools. ERO report that since the clause came into effect in June 2008, 95% of schools had already implemented the guidelines.10
  • The fact that children bring unhealthy food into school or buy it out of school is not, as has been proposed, a reason to allow unhealthy food to be sold at school.1 The same rationale is not accepted in other circumstances. For example, it could never be acceptable to allow cigarettes to be sold at school because students could buy them at a local dairy.
  • Whereas at one time New Zealand was seen as a global leader in our efforts to tackle obesity,11 this latest move by the National government puts New Zealand seriously out of step with other countries. The UK Government, for example, is making laudable efforts to tackle childhood obesity, including implementing regulations around school food, and embarking on plans to broaden the reach of such regulations to include other key environments such as restaurants and workplaces.
The future cost to the country of obesity and nutrition-related disease is immense.12–14 It is of the utmost importance that we support young people to develop healthy eating habits as they grow. This requires environments that support healthy food choices.
The current rates of childhood overweight (21%) and obesity (8%) show that existing environments are not conducive to healthier choices.15 Government intervention is justified to protect children and to prevent the high societal costs of nutrition-related disease. This does not make New Zealand a ‘nanny state’, but simply a caring state.
Delvina Gorton
Dietitian / Research Fellow
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Helen Eyles
Nutritionist / Research Fellow
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Cliona Ni Mhurchu
Public Health Nutritionist / Programme Leader (Nutrition & Physical Activity)
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland
Chris Bullen
Public Health Medicine Specialist / Acting Director
Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland

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Now, you’re probably wondering; why should I accept the statement of the people above, rather than my democratically elected representatives?

It’s very simple. The people above are trained in matters relating to health. Their #1 concern is mine and your well-being. That is why they went to University; spent years and thousands of dollars being educated; and why they took time to make their views known to you. In short, they care.

The people who over-turned Labour’s National Administration Guidelines for healthy foods are politicians. They care only to be re-elected.

Or put another way, who would you trust to look after your health; your GP? Or the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall? Your call.

In March 2010, more Health professionals joined the nutritionists above, calling on the Government to reinstate legislation for all schools to provide healthy canteen food,

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Christchurch public health nutritionist Bronwen King, said,  “What we need is strong leadership and tough measures, not the soft options they are dishing out now. Unless we get this, we will all pay the price.”  Source

The response of the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, was thus,

The new Government has a more balanced approach than the finger-pointing, nanny state attitude of the previous administration,” he said.

“We trust school boards of trustees and parents to decide what they sell in their own tuck shops.”  Ibid

“Nanny state attitude”, remarked Mr Ryall. More politicking.  What was it I said about who to trust; health professionals or politicians?

However, the government has taken “action”. If you can call it that,

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By now you are probably wondering why on Earth our political representatives in Parliament would ‘can’ Labour’s healthy foods policy for schools – which costs very little for the taxpayer to impliment – whilst committing $8 million dollars for 300 bariatric procedures (weight loss surgery) in the next four years? What possible sense is there to such a bizarre situation?

In terms of health outcomes and sensible use of tax-dollars – very little sense.

In terms of political appearances to be Doing Something – it makes perfect sense.

By scrapping Labour’s healthy foods policy, National gives the appearance of rejecting “nanny statism” (though National has passed, or assisted, similar legislation in the past – such as the so-called “anti-smacking Bill), and reinforcing the Rights of Individuals to “make their own decisions”.

By funding 300 bariatric procedures, National is seen to be Doing Something to address this nation’s obesity problem. Above all, politicians understand that the public’s perception must be influenced: politicians need to be seen to be Doing Something to address a problem.

It is precisely the reason why “boy racer” legislation was passed by National – despite police already having considerable powers to seize cars and arrest drivers. The point was not that new laws were needed – but politicians had to be seen to be Doing Something.

The reason why National could not rely on Labour’s healthy foods in schools programme? It would not have offered the immediate results that politicians require. Such a programme takes years – decades! – to show results. Politicians face re-election every three years.

Unfortunately, as usual, it is the public and our children, who will suffer the results of this political expediency. We will also pay for it, in monetary terms,

“About 150,000 New Zealanders could potentially benefit from bariatric surgery. One in five New Zealanders are obese, leading to direct health costs of almost half a billion dollars each year. “ Source

And it’s getting worse,

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Note the statement in that article, under-lined in red,

“Christchurch obesity surgeon Richard Flint said patients selected for the pilot programme would be younger and with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 45. “

That’s right, folks. Not only are we  spending more money for weight-reducing operations – but the patients are becoming younger, as obesity increases in our society.

National is also supporting a policy of “outsourcing” these procedures to private clinics,

Christchurch obesity surgeon Richard Flint said… ” Christchurch Hospital did not have the resources to do the operations so they would be outsourced to private clinics.” Ibid

So now companies are making a profit out of the growing obesity epidemic. This, no doubt, fits in very well with National’s core ideology of  encouraging private “providers” for our health needs.  Someone will be making a lot of money out of  peoples’ misery.

But it’s going to cost us taxpayers even more,

“There were plans for the multimillion-dollar Christchurch Hospital redevelopment to include a bariatric surgery unit. “ Ibid

This is how obesity impacts on us, as a society, and as individuals. As obesity gets worse, we will end up paying more for hospitals, surgical procedures, medicines, post-surgical care, etc.

And to make it worse, the Government is actually proud of it’s “accomplishments” in this area,

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Remarkable. We have a government that is willing to spend half a billion tax-dollars on new hospital facilities and operations…

… but balks at removing unhealthy food from school cafetarias. Obviously, National has forgotten what their grandmothers and grandfathers knew instinctively; a gram of prevention, is worth a kilo of cure. I guess their imperative for re-election outweighs simple common sense? Little wonder that we distrust politicians.

There are those in society who are vocal in their  insistance that obesity is an “issue of personal responsibility”, and not something for the State to be concerned with. I reject that philosophy utterly.

We are a community, who rely on each other for everything that we have. None of us achieved or gained anything on our own – someone, at some point in time, helped us to get to where we are today.

When it comes to the obesity epidemic, this is a problem that affects us all; whether in the taxes we pay, or a family member directly affected. Or ourselves.

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We need to remember this, the next time a Minister tells us that it is a matter of “choice”. If it is “choice”, then we should be choosing to have sensible, proactive policies when it comes to food for our children – and not just leave it up to individuals. For children, that does not always work. And eventually, that “choice” will lead to a “choice” whether to have an expensive operation or not.

(Please note, I am not opposed to people requiring such operations. Such medical interventions are life-saving.  My call is for programmes that offer children better outcomes than what is currently “on the menu” for them.)

And yet, with a bit of common sense and prevention, we ultimately wouldn’t be needing those expensive new hospital wings, and surgical weight-loss procedures.

Q: Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

A: To get to his appointment at the new bariatric-wing of his local hospital. (Yeah, I know, not funny. It wasn’t meant to be.)

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Previous blogpost

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

Additional

Tumeke blog:  Ronald McDonald becomes guest editor at the NZ Herald

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High milk prices? Well, now we know why…

26 August 2011 5 comments

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I guess this explains why milk, other dairy products, tomatoes, etc,  are so expensive.

And the Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, can save taxpayers the expense of a Parliamentary inquiry into why milk is so expensive here in NZ…

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I guess it wasn’t such a bright idea to allow supermarkets to buy each other up, until we had only two, nation-wide chains remaining. Duopolies are not noted for promoting competition and keeping prices down.

New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly:

Progressive Enterprises

Foodstuffs

Chalk up yet another cock-up for the free market, unregulated economy?

I think so.

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+++ Updates +++

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Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee inquiry into milk prices gets under way,

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Related issues

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

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