Jonathan Coleman is to dove-tail his health and sports
portfolios to try to create a healthier, fitter and slimmer New
The newly appointed Health Minister has nearly completed a
whirlwind tour of the country's district health boards.
Coleman was also handed the sport and recreation portfolio in
Prime Minister John Key's cabinet reshuffle. He said it was an
opportunity to "leverage physical activity into the health
The 48-year-old faces a burgeoning crisis, with high body mass
index predicted to overtake tobacco use as the leading risk to
health by 2016.
"The nation is getting bigger and that is a major risk factor
for all sorts of disease like diabetes, heart disease and a range
of cancers. That also increases the strain on the healthcare
system," he told the Herald on Sunday.
"Using physical activity and sport to try to address obesity in
our young people is something I'm passionate about and focused
The dual arrangement meant he could address physical inactivity
as a health issue without stepping on another minister's toes.
"You can't start working up ideas in other people's portfolios
-- you can suggest ideas at times -- but having health and sport
means you can address that and take action."
And the minister plans to lead by example by exercising and
By Wednesday, Coleman had already played tennis with Primary
Industries Minister Nathan Guy, worked out at the gym and was
planning a walk.
"On an average week I'd do four sessions, sometimes five. It'll
be a mix of going to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour, it might be
a game of tennis, it might be getting on my bike once a week or
walking," he said.
"I decided about 12 years ago that I was looking for exercise
that is sustainable through life. I'm into my 40s now so I'm not
looking to run marathons or push my body to extremes. I'm looking
for long-term, sustainable activity."
Coleman said he tried to eat a balanced and varied diet with
plenty of fruit and vegetables.
"I'm not a fanatic but I've worked over time on reducing the
amount I eat, shifting the balance more to leaner foods. I eat
healthily but certainly I enjoy having a piece of cake or a beer,
just like the next person."
As well as tackling obesity, other priorities included ensuring
the health system was financially sustainable in a "constrained
funding environment"; making progress on diseases such as diabetes
and mental health; and moving more resources into health care
provided in the community.
Coleman trained as a doctor and worked for three years in New
Zealand hospitals before practising in London for another three
By Matthew Theunissen of Herald on Sunday