Nurtrition expert Sir Jim Mann wants the Government to up its game in addressing diabetes and heart disease.
It comes as the pioneering researcher is one of three new knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2022 New Year Honours for his services to health.
Mann, who became a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002, has worked for more than three decades on world-leading interventions in the fields of coronary heart disease and diabetes with the University of Otago.
In recognition of his expertise in nutrition, Mann has been appointed by the World Health Organisation to lead and serve on numerous advisory groups and centres, including the Collaborating Centre for Human Nutrition, the Nutritional Guidance Advisory Group and the Expert Advisory Panel on Nutrition.
On his knighthood, Mann admitted it was a surprise and hoped his colleagues would see it as acknowledgement of their work as a whole.
"I don't see this as recognition for me specifically but rather recognition for the kind of work we do, the importance of the work we do."
Mann's work had been a significant contributor to changing perceptions of how lifestyle could impact health outcomes.
Thirty years ago, Mann said, there was very little interest in what role people had themselves in preventing disease such as diabetes and heart disease, but that had since changed.
"I think that in the last three to four decades, people have now started to accept as indeed they did for smoking many years before, the importance of lifestyle in these really important diseases; diabetes, heart disease, cancer."
He noted great strides were made under the Helen Clark government with a world-leading programme, Healthy Eating - Healthy Action, which focused on young people.
It was later scrapped by Sir John Key and while Mann acknowledged the current Labour Government had made some efforts to promote such causes, it still wasn't enough.
"I regret to say, although the current Government has done some things in this direction, there is a huge amount more which can be done.
"The next step is serious action."
He believed if Kiwis were enabled to change their more destructive eating and living habits, the risk of type 2 diabetes could be reduced by more than half.
Mann hoped New Zealand's journey with Covid-19 would help inform more equitable application of services to fight these diseases.
"Covid has taught us what we have to do in order to reduce that inequity in terms of infectious diseases so we need to translate tht into non-communicable diseases."