Death and disability for thousands of New Zealanders could be avoided if a handful of proven prevention strategies to combat the nation's biggest health endemics are implemented.
Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers and chronic lung disease account for 89 percent of all deaths, many of which could have been prevented according to a paper published in the NZ Medical Journal today.
It has prompted calls for a nation-wide national commitment to curb the five main non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
"A large proportion of the burden of death and disability caused by NCDs is potentially avoidable through cost-effective, evidence-based, preventative and treatment interventions," one of the paper's authors professor Chris Bullen said.
"The feasibility of this programme hinges on high-level political support that will ensure financial resources, people and organisational capacity and capability to implement these interventions."
The diseases are the leading cause of preventable ethnic and socio-economic health inequalities, according to the paper, with an estimated 7000 people dying prematurely from them in 2012.
Childhood obesity is at its highest level ever and the gap between rich and poor household doubled in just a single year.
"This rapid increase in inequalities underlines the need for an obesity target based on reducing overall obesity prevalence and reducing inequalities, along with strategies that are regulatory rather than just educational, says Professor Bullen.
"To attain these targets it will be vital to have collaboration among all interested parties, including iwi, government, government ministries and agencies, local authorities, civil society, academia, not-for-profit organisations and in some cases the private sector."