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Mission-On off

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, March 26th, 2009 - 21 comments
Categories: budget 2009, health, national/act government - Tags: ,

If the definition of PC is doing things because they fit an ideology, not because they make sense, then it’s clear National and ACT are pushing their own PC agenda.

It’s out with successful and value-for-money programs like Mission-On. For a small cost now in helping kids develop healthy eating habits we will save ourselves the huge costs of obesity-related illnesses in the future.

Mission-On has to go though because Key is ideologically opposed to “telling parents ‘make sure your child eats their fruit and vegetables'” – a statement that shows Key doesn’t even know who the program is directed at.

It doesn’t matter that it works. Misson-On is just one of dozens of small, successful programs that the government is getting rid of on ideological grounds using the recession as an excuse. Meanwhile, billions can be found to give tax cuts to the rich.

The writing’s on the wall. It’s going to be very black budget.

21 comments on “Mission-On off ”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    Interesting post, Tane.

    It’s out with successful and value-for-money programs like Mission-On.

    It’d be nice to know whether it’s successful or value-for-money. $15.7 million a year for the programme, for 25,000 registered users, sounds very expensive. How do we know how successful it is? Has the analysis been done? Do we know by international examples whether a programme like this does actually achieve its outcomes? Are its outcomes to get as many people as possible to access the website, or actually reduce obesity? What evidence is there of the latter?

    For a small cost now in helping kids develop healthy eating habits we will save ourselves the huge costs of obesity-related illnesses in the future.

    Again, it’d be nice to know that it actually works. There’s an increasing amount of itnernational research that school-based anti-obesity programmes have almost nil impact on reducing obesity rates in children. Does anyone have an idea whether creating websites actually has any effect? Has the research been done?

    It’s obvious that poor eating habits are a problem, but I don’t think throwing millions of dollars a year at pie-in-the-sky solutions when you don’t know how effective the spending is, is a very good use of taxpayers’ money.

    • Ianmac 1.1

      If there has not been enough research to prove that the Mission On and suchlike work, equally has there been good research to prove that it doesn’t work? Or just can it because they can, can?

  2. Tigger 2

    It is symptomatic of National’s ‘treat the symptoms, not the disease’ philosophy. For example, more money on roads but less on getting people out of cars. More money (supposedly) on doctors but less on treating causes of hospital visits (obesity for example).

    Of course, in medical terms if you constantly treat the symptoms and don’t tackle the disease the patient will die.

    • trademark 2.1

      I’ll throw in a baseless conspiracy theory here – by treating the symptoms and not the disease, National will ensure a continued need for these services in the future. That way, if they get more successive terms in government, and they start privatizing state services off, they’ll be able to guarantee a large market to offshore conglomerates and rake in a few more dollars. Hey, there’s too many morbidly obese people, time to let the private sector show us how to innovate rather than expand state services to cope with the problem we created ’cause you know, big government is communism and all.

      But seeing how short-term (sustainability-wise) the government’s thinking seems to be on this and so many other issues in so many other domains, even this outlandish conspiracy theory could be seen as flattery!

  3. r0b 3

    It’d be nice to know whether it’s successful

    Schools certainly seem to think so:
    http://mission-on.tki.org.nz/physical_activity_case_studies
    http://mission-on.tki.org.nz/student_well_being_case_studies

    $15.7 million a year for the programme, for 25,000 registered users

    You’re munging your figures. $3.7 million for the website with 25,000 registered users, $15.7 million for the whole program which is broader than that.

    Again, it’d be nice to know that it actually works.

    See school case studies above.

    There’s an increasing amount of itnernational research that school-based anti-obesity programmes have almost nil impact on reducing obesity rates in children.

    I’d be interested to see some citations, but I can well believe it. Programmes in schools may not be sufficient on their own, but they can be part of a solution which is sufficient. This is an argument to extend such programmes to other sectors, not to cut them. Education and prevention is one of the most effective ways to spend health dollars.

    It’s obvious that poor eating habits are a problem, but I don’t think throwing millions of dollars a year at pie-in-the-sky solutions when you don’t know how effective the spending is, is a very good use of taxpayers’ money.

    Are you describing John’s cycleway?? Hmmm. Try typing “school nutrition education outcomes” into google, and browse the 333,000 hits.

    gotta go…

  4. Ianmac 4

    Rob well said.

  5. Tim Ellis 5

    Thanks for your comments r0b.

    You’re munging your figures. $3.7 million for the website with 25,000 registered users, $15.7 million for the whole program which is broader than that.

    Point taken. $3.7 million seems like a large amount of money to spend on a website.

    See school case studies above.

    I had a browse through some of those case studies, and it appears that the more relevant case studies are at http://mission-on.tki.org.nz/food_and_nutrition_case_studies . What strikes me in looking through them is that the case studies are in a standard format, but there doesn’t appear to be any measure of the effectiveness of the school-based plans. It’s all very well to ban pastries and fizzy drinks from tuck shops, but how do you know if it has any impact on reducing obesity if you don’t measure it? There is no analysis in any of the case studies of how effective they have been.

  6. Ari 6

    The writing’s on the wall. It’s going to be very black budget.

    My understanding was that it will be a very red budget 😉

  7. QoT 7

    I hate to be a total downer, but can I safely assume that “obesity-related illnesses” mean “illnesses the media loves to say are related to obesity, because correlation is totally the same as causation”? Can I further safely assume that the measurement of “obesity” is everybody’s favourite incorrectly-applied tool, the BMI scale?

    John Key’s reasoning may be flawed and uninformed, but let’s focus on that and not ZOMG FAT IS UNHEALTHY THINK OF THE CHILDREN hysteria.

  8. gingercrush 8

    I don’t get how such a website costs 3.7 million or even how 3 million is justified. But alas I’m not a webmaster. So L. Prent you surely are the most knowledgeable about this stuff here. Is 3.7 million a lot?

    The program has some value in it. Though I still don’t get why it costs as much as it does.

    • lprent 8.1

      The difference is that we do not charge for the writing, research, pictures, video, etc. We also don’t pay for any of those things. Similarly we work with available material, and generally to not create new content except as an interpretation.

      We also do not provide secure servers for 7 year olds.

      Add all of those and the bill is high.

      • gingercrush 8.1.1

        I realise that and wasn’t expecting some comparison to this website. I just thought perhaps you could confirm why it would cost 3 million which I still believe to be very high.

      • Felix 8.1.2

        It does still sound like a lot, doesn’t it?

        We also do not provide secure servers for 7 year olds.

        Not secure ones, but still…

  9. Lanthanide 9

    “Mission-On has to go though because Key is ideologically opposed to “telling parents ‘make sure your child eats their fruit and vegetables” – a statement that shows Key doesn’t even know who the program is directed at.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just a bit naieve and not giving Key enough credit.

    I’m sure he has a good idea what is in the programme and knows that it is more directed towards children. What he is doing here is whipping up all the NACT supporters by saying “look at that silly Labour nanny government and the things they wasted money on! Telling parents to tell their children to eat vegetables? Well duh, we can do that without spending $15 million a year”.

    He’s deliberately misrepresenting Misson-On and how it is implemented so that he can down-play it’s usefulness and therefore axe it with a minimum of fuss.

    Yes John Key is stupid, but he is also savvy (how else does a smiling face become the PM of a country so soon after joining a political party?).

  10. Trevor Mallard 10

    Can someone source Key’s comments for me please. Mission On is very early in its life and had been a brilliant example of bringing government agencies together. If John Key hasn’t worked out that overweight underexercised young people are a major and potentially very expensive health risk then he is even more superficial than i had assummed. To give Nats credit they initiated Push Play which has informed Mission on. Those programmes and the Green Prescriptions have won international awards and are designed to help us maintain our position in the first place for physical activity in the OECD, As a taxpayer I think they are a great investment and Key can’t know many people with diabetes if he is chopping them.

    • Felix 10.1

      Here you go Trevor, from Key’s website:

      The quote is from this speech apparently to Waitakere Electorate Lunch, Henderson, dated June 30 2008.

    • Tim Ellis 10.2

      That’s all very well Mr Mallard, and I appreciate that you seem to think it is a great investment. But where is your evidence that the investment is actually achieving the intended outcomes of making children more physically active, and reducing their likelihood of obesity?

      I haven’t seen a string of evidence to suggest either of these outcomes are being achieved. If you’ve got any, I would love to see it. With respect to you, your government introduced a range of these programmes, and I think it’s a real failure on your part, if they have been effective, that you haven’t been able to demonstrate how they’ve been effective.

      Just saying it’s a “great investment” doesn’t work, in my view, unless you can demonstrate what returns have been achieved. Those returns aren’t evident at all in the Mission On website.

  11. justthefacts 11

    “Can someone source Key’s comments for me please.”

    Just as lazy in opposition as you were in government aye Trev.

    We pay you far more than you are worth, why not spend your time doing your own research and less time on here.

  12. SaveOurKids 12

    rOb obviouly knows what he is talking about. The numbers are spot on. However, you have to take the $3.7M into context. The website build was a small proportion of this spend. The research, school curriculum development, initial design, software licenses, hosting costs, engineering support, etc. is all in this $3.7M. In the commercial world, we would call this Development Capital – I wonder how much McDonald’s spends in developing new plastic toys for their Happy Meals each year?

    Also, this site has a 24 hour/7 day a week moderator service – that is, an couple of adults watching the chat rooms, user uploaded content and emails to make sure that all is legitimate. In a recent example, an 8 yo boy used his Mission-On email messageing to tell his friends he was going to kill himself. It took about 15-20 minutes to locate his parents and make sure the little fellow was not serious. Luckily he wasn’t – this service is not cheap but part of a Duty of Care required in this day and age.

    The Mission-On website has over 27,000 users and growing steadily. As a point of comparison the-hub, the offshot to the kid’s TV programme, Studio Two has around 30,000 registered users and that site is promoted daily on the TV show.

    Lastly and then I’ll shut-up, if you want to talk to kids watching too much TV or spending too much time on-line where do you go – on-line or to TV?

    Consider what a waste it would be to now “pull the plug” on the website, that is to literally turn it off. The money has already been spent – who is wasteful now?

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