In a first for New Zealand rugby, the region’s health board has signed up with the Tasman union to become its official health and wellbeing partner.
Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) has replaced the union’s former partner, Coca Cola Powerade, and will see the Mako players promote health initiatives.
As part of the three-year, $15,000 deal, the Tasman Rugby Union will encourage positive health-related decisions and behaviour among its stadium audiences, club rugby communities and schools.
Its focus will be on the reduction of sugar consumption, the promotion of smoke-free environments, alcohol harm reduction and promoting mental wellbeing and resilience.
NMH chief executive Peter Bramley says the partnership is an “innovative and powerful” public health initiative.
“As the official health and wellbeing partner of the Tasman Rugby Union, we can leverage the influence that Mako players have among youngsters in our region. We can also use the reach the TRU has into clubs, schools and the wider community, to inspire positive health decisions and behaviour.”
He says the sponsorship is a “prudent investment”, even amid revelations that the health board is in a $20 million deficit.
“It costs as much as $5,000 to remove one child’s teeth under general anaesthetic and we are seeing far too many children needing this kind of unnecessary hospital care in our region.
“The terrible health effects of sugary drinks don’t stop at teeth – sugary drinks are the cause of obesity, diabetes and other serious health conditions that are a heavy burden on every DHB’s finances.”
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis says that promoting healthier living to its player base is important to them, individually and as players in an active competitive sport.
“As a union, we are excited to be working progressively with NMH over three years to achieve our collective goal of encouraging our players to reduce their sugar intake and to be mentally and physically healthier.”
NMH health promotion manager Lauren Ensor says, being sponsored by Coca Cola seemed to be “inappropriate” because sugary drinks were the main cause of sugar in New Zealander’s diets.
“We aim to see an increasing health focus within rugby locally over the coming years, and hopefully that inspires other unions and New Zealand Rugby to follow suit.”