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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

A Holistic Vision for a Healthier New Zealand

Updated: Apr 6

(Updated: 4th April, 2024)

An Open Letter

To the Esteemed Members of the New Coalition Government

Our future!
Our future!

As someone who's dedicated over fifty years to the fields of medical nutrition, sports medicine, and rehabilitation, I find myself compelled to address an issue of critical importance to our nation's future: the escalating burden of ill-health, including from the obesity epidemic. This epidemic isn't just a health crisis — it represents a growing threat to our societal fabric, underscored by the alarming statistics from the Health Metrics and Evaluation (HME) and the Global Burden of Disease study in 2019, which identified obesity as the foremost risk factor for chronic diseases and premature death.

In OECD countries, including New Zealand, more than half of the adult population is grappling with obesity, a situation that's predicted to worsen by 2030.There are many reasons why this epidemic is happening.

One reason is that we rely too much on medicine to fix our health problems. We don't do enough to prevent diseases from happening in the first place.

Another reason is that our health system is more focused on treating people who are sick than on helping people stay healthy. New Zealand, with its abundance of natural assets, is uniquely positioned to encourage outdoor activities, social interaction, and a proactive engagement in community life.

In this context, the Sport and Physical Health Policy proposed by New Zealand First offers a beacon of hope. This policy, which was developed by drawing upon the expertise of authorities in sport and health, sees the problem with how we currently think about health. We've been focusing too much on getting sick, taking medicine, and letting big drug companies, and other commercial interests, such as Big Food decide what's best, while they obfuscate the root causes. This has kept us from teaching people how to live healthy lives from when they're born until they're old. New Zealand, with its abundance of natural assets, is uniquely positioned to encourage outdoor activities, social interaction, and a proactive engagement in community life. We can do much better.

The policy has a big plan. It wants to get people of all ages to do more sports, exercise, and eat healthily. This is important because our country needs to change how it thinks about health.

We can make our country healthier and more active, happier and more prosperous for everyone.

The policy's emphasis on community coordination to foster physical activity, the integration of sport in tertiary education, and support for athletes' transition post-career, alongside financial incentives for community and corporate involvement in health initiatives, presents a holistic framework for addressing the health crisis.

As the new coalition government, you stand at a crossroads. The decisions you make today can either perpetuate the current trajectory towards increased health challenges and societal costs or mark the beginning of a new era of health and wellness for New Zealand. To improve the health of our country, we should focus on policies that:

- Put health before profit.

- Make it easier for people to get healthy food and exercise.

- Deal with the underlying causes of ill health.

This will help us move towards a healthier future.

New Zealand's Great Outdoors
New Zealand's Great Outdoors

The implementation of the Sport and Physical Health Policy, coupled with a broader commitment to transforming our health system, offers a path forward. This policy not only addresses the immediate challenges of the epidemic of poor health, but also lays the foundation for a more vibrant, healthy, and active New Zealand.

Emphasising diet, exercise, and lifestyle as fundamental pillars of preventive health can significantly alleviate the burdens on healthcare and other support services, by fostering a healthier population with less need for such services. This approach not only mitigates the incidence of chronic diseases, leading to a substantial reduction in healthcare costs, but also importantly, frees up resources within the health system itself. Hospitals and clinics, often stretched to their limits, can thus redirect their focus and resources towards more urgent and complex medical cases, as well as invest in further improving healthcare quality and accessibility. Additionally, by reducing the demands on health services, preventive health measures enable a more efficient allocation of resources across other critical areas of public service, such as education, social welfare, and infrastructure development. This creates a positive feedback loop, where a healthier population places less strain on support services, which in turn can enhance their offerings and reach, further supporting community health and well-being. The outcome is a more sustainable, resilient health system, better equipped to address both current and future challenges, and a society where individuals lead healthier, more productive lives, contributing to the overall prosperity and longevity of the community.

I urge you, as our leaders, to seize this opportunity. Let us work together to combat the health crisis, not through short-term fixes but through a sustained commitment to health, wellness, and the well-being of all New Zealanders. Your leadership on this critical issue can set a new precedent for positive change, demonstrating a commitment to the health, well-being and prosperity of our nation.

Together, we can turn the tide against obesity and pave the way for a healthier, more vibrant New Zealand.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Moller


Sport and Physical Health Policy (NZ First):

New Zealand First believes there should be a focus on making New Zealanders healthier from birth until the end of life.

While important, too much focus is on being sick, medicines, and Big Pharma, when the equal focus should be on living more active lives and using the natural assets we have around us so we are healthier and can play a more proactive part in our local communities. New Zealand is a place of space, fresh air and sunshine and we should encourage outside activity, mixing with others, and ensuring that we are gaining the benefits available in a country like New Zealand.

We will focus back on people’s health and sport being one vehicle of many to help achieve that.  New Zealand First would continue to support High Performance sport but not at the expense of getting New Zealanders active and healthier.

This policy implemented properly will result in a much more healthier New Zealand and a much reduced health bill.

  • Support exercise programmes for people from newborn Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers and a daily exercise programme for children at school through to Exercise groups for Adults.

  • Trained Physical Education Teachers in primary and secondary schools, and sports people would be encouraged to be part of this process.

  • Co-ordinators in each community whose role is to encourage local people to be active in all sorts of physical activity, sports and recreation including music and arts. This programme would utilise local parks and indoor facilities, and encourage all people at whatever level they want to participate. Parenting programmes relating to supporting their children in sport and physical activity participation would be encouraged.

  • A much-increased focus on sport and physical activity in teacher training of both primary and secondary teachers.

  • A relaxing of administration work for teachers and a focus on extracurricular participation with students in local and regional sporting opportunities.

  • From the beginning of year 6 made available to students and their families, an Advice Programme focussed on improving attitudes of people in sport and physical activity, including the behaviour of adults on the sidelines of sporting events.

  • A programme that will assist people into sport that can’t afford to be involved. This programme will identify keen people who want to participate and who can be helped by sporting involvement.

  • Prioritise Coach and Referee/Umpire education within sport encouraging more people into coaching and refereeing, and therefore providing support to all those who want to take part in sport at all levels.  This process will be supported by PE Specialists at Primary and Secondary schools.

  • Encourage people into the governance of sport who are the appropriate people and not based on race or gender.

  • Support the integration of sport into Tertiary Education organisations in a similar but smaller version of the NCAA, a USA college concept. This programme encourages sports people to gain Tertiary qualifications while following their sporting dreams.

  • Introduce a programme for rehabilitating sportspeople back into our community after their sporting careers are complete. So many sports people must be encouraged to remain engaged and pass on to young people what they have learnt.  

  • Support a community funding program that allows funds (untagged) to be generated for all community groups, and not just sport. This concept is self-sustainable and would support all parts of all our communities nationwide. This programme provides both untagged funds and funds available for future projects. This programme could be the largest funder of facilities and programmes in the country and can be coordinated with those that already exist.

  • Increase the tax benefits for corporate givers when funding authorised community programmes to 50%.


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