NZ must change ‘obesogenic’ environment – Researchers

New Zealand’s obesity problem is getting worse and researchers are becoming more vocal about the need for action to avoid a looming health crisis.

The latest announcement comes in the form of a video produced by the University of Otago (embedded below). The video explores how to change the current “obesogenic” environment – which provides easy access to far too much energy-dense food and does not encourage physical activity – to one which supports people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Prof Jim Mann, a prominent researcher featured in the video, says, “Prevention is the only realistic option to tackle the obesity epidemic. Once someone becomes obese or appreciably overweight it is a complex and costly exercise to treat their resulting health problems, especially diabetes-related ones. Nor is it easy for obese people to lose significant weight; this requires a substantial and sustained commitment in the face of an environment that strongly stacks the deck against them.”

You can read more commentary and learn about video here.

The video’s release follows last week’s publication of a letter from researchers (including Prof Jim Mann) calling for action on obesity. The open letter, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, made a series of reccomendations, stating:

“These actions are urgently needed. Failure to address them and reduce obesity will be; costly to governments because of the immense associated health costs and losses in human productivity; costly to business through failure to maintain a healthy workforce; but ultimately the greatest cost will be to individuals who suffer the burden of poor health and earlier death.”

Upcoming Briefing

Tackling obesity and dieting will be the focus of a media briefing to be held by the SMC this Friday (19th August), ‘Tackling obesity – an innovative approach’ , featuring Prof Garry Egger from Southern Cross University, Australia and Dr Caroline Horwath from Otago University.

Prof Egger considers that obesity is ‘the canary in the mineshaft that should alert us to bigger structural problems in society’ and will be examining nutritional aspects of obesity from a big picture perspective, proposing a multi-disciplinary solution which, he argues, is currently under-developed in today’s nutritional sciences.

Dr Horwath proposes a move away from deliberately restricting energy intakes (or dieting) to encouraging eating in accordance with the body signals of hunger and fullness, with a strategy that takes the focus off body weight.

Please contact the SMC if you are a journalist who would like to attend this online briefing.