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Aotearoa, New Zealand wrap-up

14 / 11 / 18

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been walking the talk when it comes to promoting working mothers and public health by taking her (breastfed) infant daughter Neve to the United Nations General Assembly in September. In a history-making event, the Prime Minister hopes this will create a path for other women. Her husband Clarke Gayford held New Zealand’s ‘first baby’ Neve while the Prime Minister addressed the assembly for the Mandela Peace Summit. Ms Ardern is only the second women to have a child while in office, with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto being the first in 1990. Ms Ardern describes New Zealanders as very progressive in their positive support for her dual roles.

New Zealand public health was the topic of a Lancet Editorial in May this year titled Tackling inequalities to improve wellbeing in New Zealand. The article praised the world first of including measures of the nation’s wellbeing alongside financial measures in the Government’s first budget, against which future wellness budgets can be measured. The New Zealand Ministry of Health’s Health and Independence Report 2017 finds the outlook for the health of New Zealanders is positive, however there are still concerns that health expectancy gains have not kept pace with life expectancy gains, and stark inequalities continue between Māori and Pasifika people and non-Māori and non-Pasifika people. New Zealand has the third highest rate of obesity on the OECD with one third of adults being obese, with much higher rates in Māori (50.2%) and Pasifika adults (68.7%).

The New Zealand Beverages Council (NZBC) will be approaching its members about sugar reduction after the Australian Beverages Council pledged to reduce sugar consumption across its portfolio by 20%. This will add to the reformulation work already completed. For example, Cocoa Cola Amatil New Zealand and Fiji has reduced the average kilojoule content by 3% a year over the past three years. According to NZBC, 32% of Kiwis never drink soft drinks and those that do, choose non-sugar varieties. Overall consumption of soft drinks continues to fall. Despite this, the New Zealand Beverage Guidance Panel supports a tax on sugar sweetened beverages (a ‘sugar tax’) and says public support for a sugar tax is strong.