Tenders invited for health projects

Maryan Street.
Maryan Street.
The Ministry of Health has called for tenders for a controversial new healthy eating initiative.

The $3 million programme replaces Labour's Healthy Eating Healthy Action, which was axed in the middle of this year. A request for proposal on the Government's contracts website said the ministry wanted to target obesity through improving maternal and child health. Interested parties were invited to devise projects focused on women's health during pregnancy and the postnatal period; promoting healthy feeding for babies, including breast-feeding; and nutrition and exercise for preschoolers.

The ministry said it was changing the way it looked at, and funded, obesity-prevention initiatives.

''Over the next three years, the ministry will be working to ensure current public health programmes are better targeted as well as identifying and investing in opportunities to improve efficiency and impact, by doing things differently,'' the request for proposal document said.

Funding for the scheme would run from about March next year, when programmes began, until June 2015.

The ministry said recent international evidence, and advice from Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, suggested the preconditions for obesity were set very early.

Labour health spokeswoman MP Maryan Street said the ''little community-based projects'' such as free exercise sessions and vegetable gardens in schools were the casualties of the ministry's new approach.

The scheme ignored diabetes, which was a lost opportunity for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, a disease ''inherently linked'' with obesity.

The focus on maternal health and young children must be expanded into a comprehensive strategy to combat the huge challenges of obesity and diabetes, she said.

Unlike Heha, for which funds were distributed through district health boards, the new scheme is contestable by DHBs, primary health organisations and non-government organisations.

Proposals involving partnerships with the private sector were encouraged, as were proposals with a regional or national scope.

The anticipated minimum cost of each approved scheme was $300,000.

The $3 million fund did not include GST.

A Southern District Health Board spokesman said the DHB had not decided whether to tender for a project.


Dangerously narrow view of health

Is it really the MoH's business or right to regulate and control bodies on a grand scale like this? The message this could potentially give to young infants and children seems appallingly irresponsible on the part of the Ministry of Health. For childen to learn over and over again that you can only be healthy by 'being skinny' is the irresponsible part. This would further promote a severely narrow and dangerous view of 'health' that will only act to benefit a small minority of our population. For the rest of us, it will be up to our personal resilience to resist such controlling and undermining messages; remembering that hollistic health is less about striving to look like a carved sport star or fashion model and more about having a balance of health, encompassing our thoughts and feelings, our relationships with others, our spirituality, our connections to the past, and our body - beautiful as it is.

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