New Zealand obesity campaigner quits over zero progress

Wellington, Nov 27 (IANS) A leading diabetes expert has wound up her national campaign to tackle New Zealand’s obesity epidemic saying she had achieved zero progress in 14 years of intense effort.

Robyn Toomath started “Fight the Obesity Epidemic” in 2001 when she started seeing teenagers with type-two diabetes; it had previously affected only people aged over 40, Radio New Zealand reported on Friday.

She has consistently called for tougher rules on the advertising and marketing of junk food, and also advocated a tax on sugary drinks and a junk food ban in schools.

Toomath said she was sick of fighting for change and getting nowhere, with the obesity rate growing to at least one in three adults and one in three children.

“Clearly I’ve made no progress. There’s not a single thing that comes to mind other than the district health boards are going to provide a healthy food environment for their staff,” she said.

She said she saw the effects of obesity every day in her job as Auckland Hospital’s clinical director of general medicine.

“Every single ward round, I am seeing patients that are morbidly obese, and have medical problems as a result. We are ordering more and more large-sized beds, we’re ordering more hoists. It’s expensive, and there is going to be more of it.”

Although New Zealand is marketed as an outdoor, athletic haven, obesity is a long-standing issue for the island nation. Forty-six percent of New Zealand’s indigenous population, the Maori, are obese, as are 66 percent of Pacific Islanders resident in New Zealand.

The New Zealand government recently launched an advertising campaign featuring national sports personalities to try and encourage the citizens to make healthier lifestyle choices.


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