Around a third of NZ children are overweight or obese. This figure is even higher for Pacific Island and Māori children (60% and 40% respectively).
There is no simple answer to this growing problem. The obesogenic environment in which we live, nutrition, sleep, behaviour and physical activity all have a role to play in maintaining a healthy childhood weight. In order to create sustainable change it will take a collective effort. This includes government, health, education, social services, individuals, families, friends and whānau.
The South Island approach
In the South Island, the five district health boards (DHBs) agreed that an integrated approach is the most effective way to prevent and manage overweight children in the South Island.
In 2014, under the South Island Alliance, a Clinical Advisory Group for childhood healthy weight was established. The role of this group is to oversee the implementation of the South Island Childhood Healthy Weight Strategic Plan and provide support, advice and direction to South Island DHBs.
This work also supports the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan and associated health target, which requires obese children to be identified at B4 School Checks and referred to a health professional for clinical assessment and family based nutrition, activity and lifestyle interventions.
South Island Childhood Healthy Weight Strategic Plan
The South Island Childhood Healthy Weight Strategic Plan aims to provide a more consistent approach to the prevention and treatment of unhealthy weight in childhood across the South Island. It includes five key aims:
In addition to the South Island strategic plan, each South Island DHB is responsible for developing its own local childhood healthy weight plan.
Group Lifestyle Triple P
The preferred option for moderate to severe child obesity treatment in the South Island is the Group Lifestyle Triple P intervention, which follows a three-pronged approach (parenting as it applies to nutrition and physical activity).
Group Lifestyle Triple P is a three month programme for approximately 90 minutes per week, delivered by a facilitator to groups of 10 parents/caregivers. There are nine trained facilitators for this programme in the South Island. Access is via general practitioner referral only.
BeSmarter is an A4 printed resource developed in the Waikato as a first point of discussion with families and caregivers about a child's health. It is easy to use and includes culturally appropriate advice. There is also a range of supporting material for BeSmarter practitioners.
eGrowth charts (Anthropometrics)
An electronic solution developed by Southern DHB to track body measurements from birth to death is available across the South Island via Health Connect South. Anthropometrics enables clinicians to track growth over time and share this information with other relevant treating clinicians across DHBs.
Healthy weight ruler for four-year-olds
This is a simple tool that helps parents and caregivers understand their child's weight status. It clearly displays the weight ranges from too little to too big, and includes tips for children in the big to too big weight range. It is especially useful if the B4 School Check identifies a child as having an unhealthy weight.
The South Island Clinical Advisory Group for childhood healthy weight releases an update following its monthly meeting. If you want to be added to the monthly update distribution list, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The South Island Clinical Advisory Group for Childhood Healthy Weight meets monthly and is chaired by Prof Barry Taylor.
To contact the South Island Clinical Advisory Group for childhood healthy weight, contact the facilitator, Stephanie Read:
Ph: 03 378 6914
Mobile: 027 5126 122