22 September 2011

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) strongly supports the United Nation’s declaration this week calling for a multifaceted campaign to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and urges the Government to invest more in preventative health measures.

NCDs include cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

“Some of these diseases are largely preventable as they are strongly associated with diet and lifestyle,” says NZMA Chair Dr Paul Ockelford. “The UN has urged collaboration by governments, industry and society to curb the risk factors behind these diseases and the NZMA strongly backs this.”

Recommendations made by the UN include price and tax measures to reduce tobacco consumption, curbing the extensive marketing to children of unhealthy foods and beverages, promoting healthy diets and measures to reduce excessive consumption of alcohol. 

“These align strongly with the NZMA position statements on alcohol, tobacco, obesity and health equity,” says Dr Ockelford.

“We are seeing alarming rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease which are continuing to rise in New Zealand and many other countries.”

Dr Ockelford said the NZMA acknowledged and welcomed the progress in some areas, most notably tobacco, with the vision of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025 and policies to reduce smoking such as the rise in cigarette prices.

“However, we need to do more on preventing illnesses in other areas and have called on the Government to invest more in preventive health overall. This includes addressing the social determinants of health such as housing, income and education so that more is done to limit illness in the first place. Ideally, we need to invest more in children as one’s health as a child has lifelong effects.”  

“Investment in preventative health will not only improve our health as a nation but will reduce the pressure on health services and the economic burden this imposes.”

Dr Ockelford also called on the Government to action tougher measures against alcohol and said it was disappointing that to date many of the most significant recommendations made by the Law Commission, such as increasing the price of alcohol and raising the drinking age, had been ignored.

“As we move towards the election, it is timely for our Government and other political parties, to think about their long-term vision for New Zealand’s health and to support the implementation of strong evidence based solutions, particularly as they relate to social factors which have such a strong correlation to so many diseases.”