The Government's child obesity plan has been criticised for not going far enough but, after years of inaction, any move to address the problem has to be good.

The plan's centrepiece is to make child obesity one of Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's health targets.

The figures surrounding obesity in this country are frightening.

Ten per cent of children and 30 per cent of adults are obese. New Zealand has the third-highest rate of adult obesity in the developed world.


It's obvious that something needs to be done to address this country's expanding waistline. The question is, does this plan go far enough?

Under the plan the code of advertising food to children will be reviewed. There will also be discussions with food and drink industry leaders over the possibility of voluntary industry pledges and changes to food labelling, marketing and advertising to children.

Schools and early childhood centres will be reviewed on nutrition, physical activity and health and a national media campaign will focus on childhood obesity.

Dr Coleman also wants 95 per cent of children identified as obese in the B4 School Checks, which assess the health of 4-year-olds, to be referred to a health practitioner to help the whole family with nutrition and activity.

Importantly, though, there is no mention of the soft drink or sugar taxes promoted by a number of public health specialists and the Greens, but rejected by the food industry and Dr Coleman.

This week, Boyd Swinburn, professor of population nutrition at Auckland University, said the plan was heading in the right direction but fell short of recommendations from the World Health Organisation, which included a sugar tax.

The argument for a sugar tax on soft drinks is compelling and it seems there is growing support among Kiwis for such a move.

Last month it was reported that polls carried out by a group of doctors found support for such a tax - where money would go back into fighting childhood obesity - had grown from 44 per cent to 52 per cent in 18 months.


While a sugar tax would no doubt play a big role in addressing the problem, the Government has to start somewhere.

The child obesity plan is a good launching point, and hopefully policymakers will adopt a bolder approach in the near future.