Daily Archives: 16/04/2015

Ties to liquor industry hamstring Health Promotion Agency, say critics

This news story came from the medical press in New Zealand and discusses how critics argue that ties to the liquor industry hamstring the Health Promotion Agency’s work.

Public health experts have condemned the agency charged with offering sober guidance on alcohol, claiming it is compromised by industry and Government pressure.

In an opinion piece published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, health experts claim the Government’s response to the toll of alcohol-related harm is “in crisis”, eroded by ties to the booze industry.

The agency responsible for promoting a healthy response to alcohol, the Health Promotion Agency, “was compromised from the start”, the article says, and was given less autonomy to criticise and assess government policy than its predecessor, the Alcohol Advisory Council, which it replaced in 2012.

With responsibility for prompting everything from sunscreen use to healthy eating, the HPA’s focus on alcohol was diminished and often reduced to social marketing campaigns, with “dubious effectiveness”, the authors say.

HPA chairman Lee Mathias was not available yesterday but the agency said in a statement the claims were “completely wrong”.

Head of research, policy and advice Andrew Hearn said the agency was involved in evaluating alcohol law changes, and researching the density of liquor outlets and booze-buying habits. He rejected suggestions it was less independent.

Professor Kypros Kypri, of Newcastle University in Australia, one of the co-authors of the medical journal article, said the HPA appeared to be hamstrung. “It is to the benefit of a government that is industry-focused to have a less critical voice out there.”

Kypri was also concerned about former National MP Katherine Rich, chief executive of food and liquor interest group the Food Grocery Council, sitting on the HPA board.

Author Nicky Hager claimed in his book Dirty Politics that Rich hired PR consultant Carrick Graham, who paid blogger Cameron Slater to attack alcohol and food industry critics.

Rich denies the allegations. She did not respond to requests for an interview yesterday but said in a statement that it was “disappointing that a respected journal has taken to publishing last year’s conspiracy theories”.

“I put my heart and soul into playing my part in the effective governance of the HPA.”

 – The Dominion Post

So the same story irrespective of where you live.  The drinks industry getting in the way of public health ……