Sugar purge: DHBs ditch the sugar Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Source: Stuff, 21 March 2017

With more than 30 per cent of New Zealand's adult population obese and a further 35 per cent over weight, we wonder what health boards are doing to take a stand. 

No coke. No high-sugar-content juices. No sweet stuff.

We were determined to lead from the front, said Waikato District Health Board (DHB) medical officer of health Dr Richard Vipond.

"Obesity is now the leading cost to the New Zealand health budget," he said.

"Healthy eating is essential to good health and over recent decades, we've seen vastly increased populations of obese and overweight people."

The key person behind the initiative to get rid of the fizz was Dr Rob Beaglehole, principal dental officer at Nelson-Marlborough DHB.

Beaglehole's mission became clear when he found himself sitting in the hospital canteen with his hand in ice after pulling out children's teeth all day. He looked out of the window to see a Coca Cola truck dropping off a delivery to the hospital. 

The collective of DHBs drew on international evidence, studies and literature reviews from several countries to word the Sugar Sweetened Beverage Policy. 

DHBs will no longer sell any beverages that are sugar sweetened, including soft drinks, sports drinks, milk with added sugar (with the exception being anything below 250millilitres) and yoghurt drinks.

A traffic light system has been designed; green light for water and plain milk, which would be 70 per cent of what is on offer at the DHB.

Amber light for no added sugar fruit juice, flavoured milk and carbonated drinks under 250mls, which will make up 30 per cent of the beverages on offer. Red light for anything else with sugar, which will not be on offer.

There is no rule for what foods patients can bring into the hospital.

DHBs are implementing the policy at their own pace. Vipond said he hoped the next step would be for other organisations to follow suit and adopt some of the policies.