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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.