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Lakes DHB focuses on childhood obesity

ROTORUA DAILY POST: By Alice Guy

A quarter of Rotorua 4-year-olds are overweight or obese and Lakes District Health Board wants to see that change.

The Government has developed a Childhood Obesity Plan which includes activities to improve public information and resources.

This includes initiatives to prevent and manage obesity in children and young people up to 18.

The core of Lakes DHB’s work in this area has been around the new childhood obesity target.

By December 2017 the target is for 95 per cent of obese children identified in the B4 School Check programme to be referred to a health professional for clinical assessment and family based nutrition, activity and lifestyle interventions.

Lakes DHB portfolio manager for maternal, child and youth health Pip King said over the past 12 months the health board had put in place systems and processes to help reach the target.

“The DHB is making steady progress in this work and we have confidence we will reach the target by December this year,” she said.

It has set up a cross-sector leadership group, Te Tunake, that meets monthly and is progressing several ideas that have come from the national Ministry of Health strategy.

The package has three focus areas – targeted interventions for those who are obese, increased support for those at risk of becoming obese and broad approaches to make healthier choices easier for all New Zealanders.

Medical officer of health Dr Neil de Wet chairs Te Tunake, and its membership includes paediatricians, Toi Te Ora Public Health, Plunket, Sport Bay of Plenty, the Ministry of Education and Healthy Families Rotorua.

“This is a very important issue,” Dr de Wet said. “In New Zealand one in 10 children is obese and two in 10 are overweight. Two thirds of adults would be considered either overweight or obese.”

Dr de Wet said people found it easy to blame specific groups but this was something affecting all of us.

“Even at the age of 4, 25 per cent of children in the Lakes District Health Board area are overweight or obese,” he said. “It’s beyond just blaming the parents, it’s really about how our food environment has changed.”

Dr de Wet said one of the largest contributors was an abundance of sugar in foods.

“Childhood should be a time free from the influence of the food and beverage companies,” he said. “We want to see better labelling on products, a tax on sugary drinks and children only being given water or plain milk.”

Lakes DHB general manager Maori health Phyllis Tangitu said whanau and communities were important in helping achieve positive outcomes for Maori.

“Te Arawa Whanau Ora Collective in Rotorua is currently considering how they can address obesity amongst whanau,” she said. “They want to provide leadership and support on this kaupapa.”

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