Tackling New Zealand’s child obesity

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Statistics suggest the battle against childhood obesity in New Zealand is still a work in progress. Photo: Google images
Statistics suggest the battle against childhood obesity in New Zealand is still a work in progress. Photo: Google images

Child obesity remains a major issue in New Zealand.

The 2012/13 New Zealand Health survey found that:

• One in nine children aged two to 14 years were obese (11 percent)
• A further one in five children were overweight (22 percent)
• Nineteen percent of Māori children were obese
• Twenty-seven percent of Pacific children were obese
• Children living in the most deprived areas were three times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas.

The survey concluded New Zealand’s overweight and obese children are likely to be obese into adulthood. Childhood obesity may increase early death in adult life from endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases and diseases of the circulatory system.

Being overweight and obesity in childhood have also been associated with impaired glucose tolerance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors, sleep apnea, and musculoskeletal disorders.

New Zealand health experts are researching and implementing programmes throughout the country to prevent all of these harmful diseases.

The South Island Alliance, a Christchurch-based organisation that works across the five south island district health boards, is tackling the growing problem of obesity in children.

South Island Alliance Child Health Work Stream Facilitator, Jane Haughey, says “there is a huge need for referral options so children and their families can be seen and supported as they achieve and maintain a healthy weight.”

Theories such as dairies needing to be held accountable for what they sell to children have been tested with the government.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service wants this to be implemented as well as restricting how many dairies can be in any given area. The council believes it is their way to fight what they say is a rise in obesity among children in New Zealand.

Auckland Regional Health Service Clinical Director, Julia Peters, notes that “… two out of three adults are overweight and one-third of children. Those rates have trebled since 1977.

“Once people are obese it’s very difficult to turn the clock back. We need to be preventing it in our children.”