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Fight the Obesity Epidemic

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The Issue

The obesity epidemic in New Zealand has become considerably worse over the recent years, affecting more than one million kiwis. A study from 2012-13, conducted by The New Zealand Health, shows that 1 in 9 kiwi kids are obese and a further 1 in 5 are overweight. These children are between the ages of 2-14 years and the rate has increased at least 2% in the last 5-6 years. Obesity during childhood puts youth at risk of obesity during adulthood, poor health such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various cancers. A contributing factor is the increase in the use of media today, amongst children aged 8-18. Children of this age group typically spend more than 44.5 hours a week in front of televisions and computers, where they are exposed to heavily advertised fast food promotions. Research has found strong connections between the rates of child obesity and the escalation in the advertisement of unhealthy foods. Not only is the inactivity of today's youth an issue, but the exposure to these advertisements can influence food preferences, requests and can contribute to developing poor eating habits now and further into their adulthood.

During May 2008 the New Zealand Television Broadcasters’ Council announced brief guidelines for restricting advertisements for less nutritious food, during the hours of children’s programmes. These voluntary guidelines were only applied to a minority of television channels and only stopped fast food advertisements from airing before the end of children's programmes, during the varied times of 4:30 - 6pm. Throughout the same month, a report was released that three out of the four most popular children's’ programmes were found to screen outside of these hours. The issue with these guidelines is that although there is an attempt to protect children against the large exposure to unhealthy food, they’re only restricting the hours children’s programmes are aired, not targeting the advertisements themselves and what hours they are screened. These guidelines should be updated as they still don’t apply to the hours during the early evening, when during this time is when the highest amount of children are watching and also when the most popular shows are played.

The policy we would like to seek is the restricting of fast food advertisements via tv and social media, that are aimed towards children, from airing between the times of 3:30pm - 8pm. This is due to research suggesting that the majority of children watch TV outside of the current guidelines, therefore, are still exposed to these unhealthy promotions. Children of today's generation tend to stay up later than previous generations, so this policy should be updated to fit the 21st century lifestyle.

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