A newly launched group set up to tackle much-needed health prevention measures says one-third of premature death and disability in New Zealand is caused by smoking, alcohol, obesity and unhealthy diet.

However the organisation said less than half of one percent of the health budget goes into prevention measures.

Over 25 health-related groups and 55 health professors have created the new umbrella organisation, the Health Coalition Aotearoa, with the aim of working together to reduce the harm from tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods and beverages.

“There is an enormous mismatch between the damage caused by these products, including the huge costs of treating the diseases they cause, and the trivial amount invested in preventing that damage in the first place. That is the gap that we want to help close,” says Professor Boyd Swinburn, spokesperson for the Health Coalition.

Swinburn said the group will be looking at what policies the Government should be focusing on to reduce the harm from tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods and beverages.

“There are several different policies and we do need to focus down on the key ones, but they are largely around price, access, marketing, and the products themselves.”

He said the other thing they are focusing on is reducing inequities.

“Tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods do hit Māori, Pacific, low income groups much harder, which is creating an unfairness in society, so these policies do need to address these inequities.”

Selah Hart, spokesperson for Coalition member Hāpai Te Hauora, said it was made very clear during the Waitangi Tribunal hearings at Ngaruawahia, that health systems had been failing Māori for a long time.

“Deep-seated socio-economic factors predispose our whānau Māori to much greater damage from tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food.

“This Coalition will strongly support the policies which address these societal factors head on, finally putting the emphasis where it is needed to turn around entrenched inequity.”

Source: Newstalk ZB

This article has had additional information added by the Health Central editor.

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