National | Health

Māori nurse backs sugary drinks tax, but says solution closer to home

The findings of a report released over the weekend highlighting New Zealand's addiction to sugary drinks has not come as a surprise to some in the health profession.

The report, published in Obesity, an international medical journal, was written by a group of New Zealand researchers.  They concluded that sugar in drinks is more dangerous than sugar in foods.

Tori Crawford (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Koroki-Kahukura, Ngāti Ranginui) is part of a team from Turuki Healthcare who deliver nutritional programs in Māngere schools.

She says, "We all know that the sugary drinks aren't good for us and that they do have effects on our body instantly as well as long term.  I think it was good that [the report] did come out, but I also knew everyone did actually have an idea of what it was going to say anyway. "

The report also renews calls for a tax to be introduced on sugary drinks.

Crawford supports the tax as a way to begin addressing the health effects caused by sugar.

"Buying a litre of coke from a dairy is a dollar, whereas a two litre of milk is five dollars," she says, "So that's five litres of coke over two litres, so I do think it is beneficial to start small and then, once we tackle that little stepping-stone, we can move on to broader options."

However, she says change needs to happen in a way that doesn't adversely affect the families who are most vulnerable.

During her school visits, Crawford says she regularly sees kids drinking sugar-filled drinks- sometimes on their way to school in the morning with a 1.5l bottle of cola- and the subsequent affects the habit causes.

"I do get kids referred to me because they've got rotten teeth and that can only really come from one place," she says.

Crawford, however, insists a government-introduced tax isn't the only solution and is calling for adults and families to lead by example and utilise the natural resources already at hand.

"We need to change that attitude of 'oh, water's gross! Water doesn't taste nice', to actually 'water is actually good for you'," she says, "It's the best thing for you and it's the cheapest thing as well."

Crawford says she has noticed that change gradually occurring in the schools she visits,  kids now come up to her, proud to show off their bottles of water.

"We need to set an example for our children," she says.