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Big fat Tolley folly

Written By: - Date published: 12:45 pm, April 26th, 2010 - 35 comments
Categories: education, health - Tags: , , ,

Comment from an international expert reported in The Herald today reminded me that National Standards aren’t the only ideologically driven folly that Tolley is forcing down the throats of schools. She’s also doing her bit to contribute to a major health problem:

Professor James said New Zealand’s obesity controls had fallen behind the rest of the Western world. He advocates strict controls in schools, a coloured food-labelling system, a ban on food marketing to children, tax breaks for fruit and vegetables and more cycleways. Professor James said he was astonished that the National Government ditched the rule allowing only healthy foods to be sold routinely in schools.

Health Minister Tony Ryall favours an educational rather than a rule-based approach to nutrition*. But the professor said New Zealand was going against the world trend, even among conservative governments. Its policy amounted to a subsidy for bad foods and taught children that eating them was normal. He said obesity and the diseases it causes – such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers – would overwhelm health services without major changes.

Simply telling people about healthy eating and activity was of limited value as educational methods worked only on the well educated.

This article references Ryall, so why an I blaming Tolley for this? Because The Greens are on the case:

The new school food guidelines were working well, by all accounts, and schools were slowly improving the quality of food that was sold in school canteens. Most schools had accepted that they had a responsibility to try to encourage healthy, rather than unhealthy, eating, amongst children in their care. …

But then, out of the blue, and without any evidence or justification, the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, threw out the school food guidelines earlier this year, along with the requirement to sell healthy food in schools. Amazingly, Official Information papers reveal that she did this without first consulting with school principals, or the Ministry of Health …

Does it get any stupider than this? Why doesn’t Ryall step in? Oh – that’s right, because by the time the extra costs that these kids bring to the health system kick in, he and his government will be long gone. It’s someone else’s problem. Anyway, from the Green’s link above, let’s complete the set – three out of three international experts agree:

Dr Boyd Swinburn, Director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity, said ‘I know of a lot of governments who are doing very little to combat the obesity epidemic, but New Zealand is the only one I know of ..who has actually taken a proactive stance on something which is likely to increase obesity.’

Australian researcher Jane Martin agreed. ‘I find it extraordinary. The Government needs to be shamed for that.’

Sign on to The Greens’ petition on this here. Shame on Tolley, shame on the Nats indeed.

[* Perhaps I’ve missed it – has anyone seen National’s education campaign on this?]

35 comments on “Big fat Tolley folly ”

  1. Adders 1

    But if you have a wide girth then, geographically speaking, your gap with Australia has closed somewhat.

  2. Bored 2

    Ryalls education versus rule based approach goes right up against the research I have seen. What that indicates is that we are genetically predisposed to eat heavily if food is available (storing up fat for the lean times). We no longer have lean times, and we are barraged with cheap high sugar high fat food. The outcome is our collective weight. Food education still has to overcome that intrinsic genetic urge, and to ask children to display food discipline is a step too far.

    Ryall needs to acknowledge that keeping unhealthy food out of schools takes away the temptation for the school hours. Cost benefit analysis might show this to be worthwhile longer term in terms of health dollars. I just dont think Ryall has got the vision to do anything other than watch his ideological mates at Coca Cola send us a large collective bill on the health budget.

  3. Pete 3

    But ‘choice’ is more important than health, and dollars saved in the long-term, especially amongst children who may sometimes choose something that is not deemed healthy (so did I and I’m not obese)…. Wait for it…

  4. AB 4

    This is the price we pay for National so successfully running the ‘nanny state’ narrative through 2007-8. It was bollocks (if pushed, anyone running this line usually came back to lightbulbs for God’s sake) but it struck a chord.

    And there’s no point now calling people morons for buying into it. Beyond Chris Trotter’s ‘Waitakere Man’ I haven’t seen any attempts at really understanding why it was such a successful tactic. And as a diagnosis I find the Waitakere man theory a bit narrow – I know people nothing like Waitakere Man who voiced this sort of stuff.

    • Pascal's bookie 4.1

      The problem I have with Trotter’s Waitakere man is that he (WM) sounds like a stereotypical tory reactionary halfwit, which is fine.

      People that don’t like paying taxes, think welfare has run amuck, believe that the last Labour govt pandered too much to teh gheys and teh maaaris are entitled both to their opinions and to have representation. I’m pretty uncon-fucking-vinced however that that representation should be from the Labour party.

      Trotters advice, as far as I can make sense of it, is to acknowledge that Labour’s liberalism since roughly the late eighties on has pissed off those people that aren’t liberal, and try to win them back witha few symbolic kicks in the teeth for liberals and Maori. The premiss is undoubtedly true. but I’m not sure that pissing off the liberals will achieve any real success. But then I’m not a rated pontificator.

      AFAIC however, left means socially liberal as well as socially democratic . You can’t have one without the other. If people are such that their various bigotries outweigh their support for other parts of the left’s platform, then they can vote for someone else, and good on them.

      Labour repudiating liberalism to try and win back those pissed off at liberalism won’t work, precisely because that nanny stuff narrative has done it’s work.

      They need to tell people that even if you don’t like liberalism, you should vote for us anyway because of 1) our other policies, and 2) the fact that national/ACT is bullshitting to you about liberalism anyway, they never repeal Labour’s liberal reforms. The whole nanny state, social conservatives thing is a muggs game right wing parties play when they in opposition.

      basically all they care about is taxes and plundering wealth. End of. If you like their tax policy, vote for it.

      If you don’t like their tax policy but vote for them based on anything else they say, then you’re a rube.

  5. I hope the junk food allowance will be reversed. But I’m not sure if Tolley feels that would threaten her pride.

    Pride before a fall.

  6. mach1 6

    Nah, Tolley wants others to get to the size she was before she got herself stapled.

    • notatory 6.1

      Guess that’s the nats policy. Stomach stapling if you can afford it, never mind sensible public health measures – folic acid is another good exampleDATED

    • NickS 6.2

      What the hell? Tolley was merely chubby, not morbidly obese. Stomach stapling for that seems like a stupid decision due to the disadvantages associated with such a operation, as exercise and diet work out cheaper and have less negative side-effects, particularly when it comes to controlling and preventing type 2 diabetes. I know exercising can be a bastard to do for some people, but unless you’ve got physical impediments (or mental, damn thee depression) getting in the way of regular exercise (hello shin splints), all you need is about 30min to an hour of something simple, even a brisk walk does well, or climbing the stairs at work etc instead of using the lift. And even then, obtaining a much lower BMI isn’t an absolute necessity, when a good deal of the complications of obesity can be controlled via exercise and diet changes.

      /sigh

  7. Ianmac 7

    They are a bit inconsistent aren’t they? Freedom of choice/education for obesity.
    No freedom of choice for Ecan Canterbury water rights.
    S’pose Anne can continue to say, “Why do I do the things I do without research? Because I can, suckers!”

    • Or for Aucklanders.

      Not even a financial analysis to show that Aucklanders will at least be saving money. It is bad enough stealing our democracy. It is even worse to replace it with something that is more expensive.

      I always though the arguments about rights were misplaced. Pupils still have the right to source bad food from elsewhere.

      I bet those who were the loudest in complaining about the loss of our “rights” are equally the loudest who insist that teenagers should wear uniforms because it is “good” for them.

  8. mach1 8

    Or she’s touting for Richard Stubbs.

  9. notatory 9

    Gosh, if such standards had been in place years ago Tolley might not have needed the stomach stapling?

  10. Simon 10

    There are a lot of unquestioned assumptions in this post:

    First, that there is an obesity epidemic. What exactly an “obesity epidemic” is, and how we know there is one isn’t well defined, and it certainly isn’t supported by a scientific consensus.
    See:
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/33669.php
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10593520
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a917375057~db=all~jumptype=rss

    Second, that the kind of school programs proposed would be effective in reducing children’s weight, or in improving health (and that those two things are related). This is far from clear.
    See:
    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/06/school-lunches-are-kids-eating.html
    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/04/jfs-special-report-major-findings-on.html
    http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n8/abs/ijo200874a.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19806061

    Third, that overweight people impose an extra burden on the health system. One study supports this assumption, here:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9347407 (gives a cost of $135 million in 1990)
    But it’s worth noting that this study makes several questionable assuptions of its own.
    The relationship between weight and health is far from clear.
    See:
    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/293/15/1861
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11527490

    • Maynard J 10.1

      My attention span is very short, as I am very hungry.

      Are you saying that there aren’t necessarily more fat people, giving school kids healthy food doesn’t fight the (non-increasing) numbers of fat people, and that the junk-food eating non-increasing numbers of fat people are not likely to cost our health system more?

      I’d take all of those assumptions as a given tbh. I object to the word epidemic, because it is not one, but that is getting into semantics. Healthy food alone at schools is not a holistic, comprehensive way to maintain a healthy weight, as any study will tell you. it does not make th eprovision of healthy food a bad idea. And a healthy weight is just that. Yes, I have begged that question. But you’d have to have a serious agenda to argue that being overweight does not impact health, lifestle or productivity.

      • Simon 10.1.1

        I’m saying that this post is engaging in rhetoric rather than evidenced-based policy.

        What is the evidence that “healthy” food rules in schools leads to better health outcomes for children? Are the costs of those programmes comparable to others with known health benefits, such as insulation in homes or increased access to primary care? I think we have very little evidence to suggest this is the case, as demonstrated by the links I provided.

    • RedLogix 10.2

      Or you could just use your eyes and come to the conclusion that one hell of a lot of people you see in the streets and shops are not meant to be that shape.

      Now I’m the first to be somewhat sceptical about standardised ‘obesity’ measures. According to the charts for my height I should be 88kg, but I was last that weight when I was 16yrs old, and even after a whole summer of full-on tramping I barely got down to 92kg. Yet at my current 98kg I’m classed as ‘obese’!! I don’t think so….certainly I’d love to loose 5kg or so, but that’s just so I’d be a little quicker on the Tararua tops. By itself weight is only one indicator of good health and I agree that it’s a mistake to focus on it to the exclusion of other measures.

      At the same time there is no question that are far too many folk who are eating badly, are grossly unfit and are at huge risk of developing Type2 diabetes. One of your links states:

      “But the most important factor,” Oliver argues, “behind America’s ‘obesity epidemic’ is the weight loss industry and public health establishment.

      while all the time ignoring that by far the biggest vested interest here is a food industry that makes vastly greater profits selling overprocessed, high sugar/fat/salt content ‘foods’ with extended shelf-lives to minimise losses. You only have to use your eyes in a supermarket where at least 50% of the shelf space is devoted to flavoured fizzy sugar water, fat saturated chippies and biscuits and alcohol. It’s totally depressing to read statistics that show 2L bottles of Cococola as the number 1 selling supermarket item; and similar foodless junk accompanying it in the next top ten places.

      Vested industry interests have fought long and dirty campaigns against tobacco and oil addiction, and will fight just as hard to protect the callous profits they extract in the supermarkets as well.

      • Simon 10.2.1

        “Or you could just use your eyes and come to the conclusion that one hell of a lot of people you see in the streets and shops are not meant to be that shape.”

        Are you making an argument for policy based on assumptions and ideology over evidence and science?

        What I’m saying is that the moral panic over obesity obscures the real issues, which are about access to health care and nutrition, and poverty. Instead of making evidence-based policy, we get rhetoric about lazy, stupid, weak-willed fat people who have to be saved from themselves. Does that sound familiar to you?

        The School Food Guidelines had some good provisions for providing nutritious food to low-income school children, and these should be seen for what they are, an issue of providing health care and welfare to underpriviledged children. Dressing the policy up in the language of fat hate does it a disservice.

        • mickysavage 10.2.1.1

          Simon

          I bet you are a climate change denier as well.

          The similarity in the arguing techniques is hard to miss.

          • Quoth the Raven 10.2.1.1.1

            We’re really engaging in honest debate now aren’t we mickey 🙄

          • QoT 10.2.1.1.2

            I really hope this comment is just incredibly smarmy insincerity, micky. Because otherwise f&ck you, and how would you like your new variant of Godwin’s Law named?

        • RedLogix 10.2.1.2

          Are you making an argument for policy based on assumptions and ideology over evidence and science?

          Of course not, but then again the vast majority of science suggests quite the opposite of the minority contrarian views you quote. Besides we are not talking anything as complex as climate science here…just the fact that there are heaps of unfit, unhealthy overweight people everywhere you look.

          What I’m saying is that the moral panic over obesity obscures the real issues, which are about access to health care and nutrition, and poverty.

          Couldn’t agree more. Pretty much the same as I was saying in my second para, that weight alone is not the real measure of health.

          Instead of making evidence-based policy, we get rhetoric about lazy, stupid, weak-willed fat people who have to be saved from themselves. Does that sound familiar to you?

          Sure does. I know the internet is full of scam-like ads promoting Peter Gabriel’s material, but he does make a very strong case for obesity having very little to do with will-power and everything to do with correct nutrition and a healthy emotional relationship with food. I totally agree that ideological ‘fat-hate’ is counterproductive, yet the fact remains, many NZ adults could stand loosing a kilo or two.

          I can see where you are coming from, but it’s getting obscured with confrontational noise.

    • Quoth the Raven 10.3

      Fathead is a really good documentary with a contrarian view on the whole obesity epidemic.
      Trailer here and here’s a clip.

    • r0b 10.4

      First, that there is an obesity epidemic. What exactly an “obesity epidemic’ is, and how we know there is one isn’t well defined, and it certainly isn’t supported by a scientific consensus.

      Emotive term I know, but according to the WHO we have a problem. From the link in the original post:

      A quarter of New Zealand adults are obese, one of the highest rates in the West and an increase of 150 per cent since 1980.

      Second, that the kind of school programs proposed would be effective in reducing children’s weight, or in improving health (and that those two things are related). This is far from clear.

      A recent academic meta-review, abstract:
      http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.031308.100307

      Controversy persists regarding the utility of school-based interventions for obesity prevention and control and for related health promotion. This article reviews the pertinent evidence, based partly on a recent systematic review and meta-analysis by the author and colleagues. Of 64 relevant papers, 21 papers representing 19 distinct studies met quality criteria; half of these were published since 2000. Despite marked variation in measures, methods, and populations that handicap interpretation of this literature, evidence clearly demonstrated that school-based interventions had significant effects on weight. Thus available research evidence does present a case for school-based interventions. Despite the fact that such evidence is limited to date, the urgency of the obesity and diabetes epidemics cries out for action. Intervention is warranted on the basis of both extant evidence and common sense, with methodologically robust evaluation concomitantly to test our assumptions and verify our intuition.

      Third, that overweight people impose an extra burden on the health system. One study supports this assumption, here:

      More than one study Simon. No point trying to deny the obvious.

    • QoT 10.5

      I’m in complete agreement with Simon on this one. And can I say say, huge props to your detractors – because after lprent makes comment after comment about “providing sources” and backing up your assertions, ain’t it fascinating when the societally dominant side of the argument just comes back with “I’m comfortable with these assumptions” and “everyone KNOWS we have an obesity problem”?

      To everyone else: you know what, let’s give you your assumptions. Now it’s on YOU to show me any kind of proven, safe, sustainable, permanent method of weightloss which will “fix” this “obesity epidemic”. Off you go. Or we could just accept different people are shaped differently, and correlation isn’t causation, and the vested interests involved in whipping up obesity-related hysteria are kind of massive, but that would be terrible.

  11. John 11

    This government is kept alive on the failed neo-liberal ideology originating in the USA. here a link on the attack on education and teachers happening in that sinking star of greed America. Must we copy their failure? Can’t we we think for ourselves?

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18816

  12. Ianmac 12

    The only reason I kept going to College was because of the tuck shop. Meat pies. Apple pies. Cream buns. Mmmmmm.

    Simon: Even at its least effect, can you not see the Aspirational importance here? John Key certainly does so why doesn’t Anne?

  13. Clipbox 13

    It seems that the petition is actually outdated.

    Please send completed forms to: Green MP Sue Kedgley, Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp required) by 30 July 2009.

  14. jcuknz 14

    After hearing about the visiting American who is both fit and fat I think the argument is the problem with all the people who are fat and unfit. If anybody does a lot of exercise they can also eat a lot of junk food for the energy to burn up with their exercise. The problem folk are those who eat junk food and don’t exercise.

  15. Galeandra 15

    Simon. Simon? Simon! SIMON!!!

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