Addressing Inequities in Childhood Obesity

The Cancer Society Auckland Northland hosted a one-day symposium –  Stop Cancer Before it Starts: Saving lives with effective tobacco, alcohol & obesity policies.

This was the keynote event of Cancer Research Week 2018 and focused on three preventable risk factors for cancer: tobacco, alcohol and obesity. It featured a range of international and national speakers who discussed the prevention of cancer and other life-threatening, non-communicable diseases through national-level policies.  

International experts Professor Gerard Hastings and Professor Anna Peeters were joined by New Zealand experts Boyd Swinburn, Sally Casswell, Jennie Connor, Richard Edwards and Anaru Waa for a thought-provoking and stimulating symposium.

Professor Gerard Hastings, University of Stirling, Scotland delivered a korero on  “The Marketing Matrix” – Prof Hastings said it is time for the government to take action.  Lifestyle factors are massive commercial factors and these companies prey on the vulnerable. Chile has removed child attractions and characteristics from products and increased all health warnings and this policy is working. In Amsterdam, one region banned all bad food advertising in schools and as a direct result, there has been a noticeable decrease in obesity in schools. He spoke about how difficult our job will be in this sector because we were up against the big fast food companies i.e. McDonalds and Coca Cola etc, who have the capacity to modify or introduce new supposedly “healthier” kai – however they continue to offer the same high fat, high sugar foods on their menus. He is not convinced that they are changing their approach to healthier option kai – he thought it was more of ploy rather than a conscious effort from these companies.

Professor Anna Peeters, Deakin, University Melbourne, “Obesity Prevention – What next?” Her talk was amazing – I could have just listened to her all day. Professor Peeters presented her current study regarding Aboriginal communities. She highlighted the similarities for Māori, Pacific and Aboriginal communities and acknowledged the in-depth research which she and her New Zealand colleagues have undertaken regarding childhood obesity to this point.  The interesting aspect that I took home from this presentation is her bottom line – we have done all the research so let’s stop mucking around and get on and implement it.

Louise Signal, Marketing Psychologist. She delved deep into the psyche of the consumer and the methods the marketing and advertising companies go to, to get us to buy. She described the layout of the aisle in the supermarkets and why the supermarkets put kai in certain areas of the store. She also discussed how quickly the marketing and advertising companies change their marketing strategies to move with the flow of the consumers buying habits.

Nā, Sande Mareroa-Gates