We are supporting with
$1.4M

Obesity, Growth Disorders & Nutrition

Overweight, under nourished and in need of help

Obesity is becoming an increasingly critical health issue in Aotearoa New Zealand – especially in children. Around 30 per cent of New Zealand children are overweight or affected by obesity, increasing their chances of muscular-skeletal development issues, bullying due to weight bias and long-term adverse health outcomes such as heart disease, strokes, and diabetes.
5 Active projects

Why is it a problem?

Why is it a problem?

What is obesity?

Driven by an obesogenic environment – i.e. the collective physical, economic, policy, social and cultural factors that promote obesity – obesity is defined as a person having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more (or equivalent for those younger than 18 years). The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses a person’s height and weight

Why is it a problem in
New Zealand?

Excess weight (obesity) is associated with many health conditions including type 2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, several common cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and reproductive abnormalities in adults. Children affected by obesity are more likely to experience obesity as adults and to have abnormal lipid profiles (increased risk of heart disease), impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure at a younger age. Obesity is also associated with musculoskeletal problems, asthma, and psychological problems including body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem, depression and other mental health problems caused by bullying due to weight bias. 

Children live in families, and families live in communities, and without the environment around them being healthpromoting, it is very difficult for families to achieve persistent healthy lifestyle change. As a country, we can do more to promote a healthy environment for our children.

Combating childhood obesity with good nutrition and healthy eating habits

Better research is needed to understand the broad societal changes that would help prevent and combat childhood obesity. Children and their families need access to affordable healthy diets and they also need to be protected from excessive exposure to unhealthy and ultra-processed foods. Healthy diets are:
• rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains products
• low in highly processed foods as they
have high contents of sugar, sodium and fat (examples: sugary drinks, processed meats, confectionary, fast-food products).

But there’s still work to be done. We need to understand the most efficient and effective ways for a healthy diet to reach those most in need.

Did you know?

Children living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas are 2.5 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas.

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO HELP?

Here are just some of the research projects we are funding to help improve nutrition in New Zealand and reduce our rates of youth obesity.

Using broader ‘systems methods’ and mātauranga Māori to improve nutrition for kids

Led by Professor Boyd Swinburn, and based on previous work, this project will work with communities and rangatahi in the Hawke’s Bay to improve children’s nutrition in collaboration with schools, whanau, food providers and community agencies.

Studying the impact of fish oil during pregnancy on childhood development

Led by Dr Ben Albert, this study will investigate whether fish-oil supplementation by pregnant mothers will affect the growth, development, or metabolism of their children during their early years.

Evaluation of a healthy lifestyle app for screening of weight-related health issues

Led by Dr Yvonne Anderson, this project will evaluate the implementation of a healthy lifestyle app for children and youth in the multidisciplinary community-based Whānau Pakari programme. Based in Taranaki, this programme has been successfully running for over a decade, and the app will assist the scale-up of similar community-based programmes.

Scoping a national data platform to track young people’s growth trajectories

To address our fragmented data sources, this study — led by Dr Teresa Gontijo de Castro — aims to scope the creation of an integrated monitoring platform for tracking the growth trajectories of young people (up to the age of 19). This will assist to monitor the implementation of interventions to prevent unhealthy weight among young people by age, region and socio-demographics.

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