A no-booze policy is being pondered by MidCentral Health officials.
A policy banning alcohol and the sale of chocolate bars at MidCentral Health facilities and events has been put on ice after promoters received a thorough grilling from health board members.
The nutrition, alcohol-free and physical activity policy was presented by public health manager Robert Holdaway, who said education alone about healthy lifestyle choices was just not working.
For decades, health promoters had been trying to educate people about the importance of making healthy choices.
But in the past 40 years, New Zealand’s obesity rates had soared, and the section of the population classed as overweight or obese had tripled.
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“This policy would demonstrate our commitment to well-being by making the healthy choice the easy choice, with the district health board as a role model.”
The policy would allow staff to bring whatever food they wanted from home or from shops for their meals, but the cafeteria would offer only healthy, low-fat options, phasing out fried food, including chips.
Alcohol would not be allowed on site or at any board-hosted function at any venue, as evidence increasingly linked it with causing cancer.
And the sale of unhealthy food, such as chocolate bars for fundraising, would not be allowed.
The policy would not stop people bringing whatever food they wanted for shared meals, or visitors bringing food to patients.
Appointed board member Materoa Mar said she objected to taking away people’s choices.
She said the policy did not respect the importance of cultural and ethnic food, and could have unintended consequences for children.
If public health messages had not had an effect on Māori, that could be because they were not culturally appropriate and targeted.
“I feel this is too much control and prohibition.”
She said the policy would effectively stop anyone having a hāngi, because of the amount of fat that needed to be left on the meat to make it work.
Fried food was also an important element in the cooking of other ethnic groups.
She could not see the value of an alcohol-free policy in hospice care and thought children could be disadvantaged if they could not sell chocolate bars as fundraising for school trips.
Holdaway said there were plenty of other fundraising options for groups that did not rely on chocolate sales.
Chief executive Kathryn Cook said it was clear from the Health Ministry’s letter of expectations that district health boards should adopt the policy.
But chairman Brendan Duffy said that should wait until board members were happy with the way it dealt with cultural issues, the phasing of changes, and on details such as allowing a drinks trolley at Arohanui Hospice.