Diary of a public health expert

Jenesa Jeram
Insights Newsletter
16 February, 2018

Week 1- After years of campaigning, I knew it was only a matter of time before our government ramped up its efforts tackling child obesity. Like my counterparts in Chile, I will be offering the government my technical expertise to crack down on junk food advertising to children.

My Chilean colleagues have already told me what to expect. Their weekly meetings grapple with very complex matters, deciding what counts as advertising to children.

According to their ministry’s head of nutrition, sometimes spotting marketing to children is easy “like if a dog is wearing glasses and talking like a person, but sometimes it’s not…We fight and fight and fight until we have consensus.”

I am ready to fight. If Chile can defeat Tony the Tiger, Kinder Surprise, and those creepy M&Ms characters, New Zealand can do the same.

Week 4- Committee meetings are going well. Let’s just say the Cookie Bear’s days are numbered.

Must complain about my colleague Sally, though. Totally embarrassed me in front of the team. She told us about a new report by NZIER claiming that the evidence a sugar tax will improve health outcomes is weak. NZIER even claim earlier economic studies of effectiveness have “fundamental methodological flaws”.

I thought I would be helpful by pointing out that Big Sugar and Big Junkfood will likely have their greasy fingerprints all over it. There’s no need to take it seriously.

Turns out the study was commissioned by our Ministry of Health.

Week 6- Went grocery shopping with my wife. I love her, but did she have to spend so long dithering over the craft beer bottles?

Then it occurred to me: she was distracted by the aesthetically pleasing designs on the label. It turns out children are not the only ones susceptible to pretty branding. The brainwashing effects of marketing are more pernicious than I thought!

I wonder if anyone has looked into plain packaging for alcohol…

Week 7- Exciting news! Just got an urgent memo saying we have something important to discuss. A new product on the market is threatening the health of children and teenagers. It comes in bright orange packaging and is apparently too tempting to resist.

New York legislators are already looking into banning the product, reformulating it, or including more health warnings.

Week 7, later- Tide Pods. We are regulating Tide Pods. Teenagers are reportedly eating the colourful laundry detergent, and the government must step in.

It might be common sense to point out this diary is entirely fictitious. But hey, we’re living in a world where teenagers eating laundry detergent is a serious public health issue.

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