New figures from the South Island Alliance of district health boards (DHBs) and the World Obesity Federation suggest that if current trends continue, 262,248 school-aged children (age 5.0 to 17.9 years) in New Zealand will be overweight by 2025. This is an increase of over 40,000 from 2010. In addition, 4001 will have Type 2 diabetes, 27,093 will have hypertension and 37,500 will have fatty liver disease.
Tuesday 11 October is World Obesity Day and this year’s focus is on childhood obesity, in support of the WHO Commission’s report on Ending Childhood Obesity and our government’s recently launched childhood obesity plan and health target, which came into effect on 1 July.
Healthy childhood weight in the South Island
In the South Island, the five DHBs have agreed on a regional approach to address healthy weight in childhood.
Chair of the South Island Clinical Advisory Group for Childhood Healthy Weight, Professor Barry Taylor, says consistent messages are important. “We have agreed on a common set of key resources so the same messages are delivered consistently across the region, and we are improving the delivery of weight management and treatment services to ensure access for every child who needs them.”
Under the South Island plan, GPs across the region will be provided with a suite of referral options for children identified as overweight or obese at the B4 School Checks. Among these, for selected cases, will be Triple P Healthy Lifestyles Group, a cost-effective, evidence-based parenting course that focuses on behavioural change, nutrition and physical activity advice for the whole family.
Coinciding with World Obesity Day, 11 October marks the start of Triple P Healthy Lifestyles Group training in the South Island. Twelve people in the South Island will be trained to deliver the Positive Parenting Programme, which has been used all over the world to improve behavioural issues in children and teens. This is the first time Triple P HLG has been used within a health context in New Zealand.
Each South Island DHB has also established a local implementation group to progress regional childhood healthy weight initiatives. One of which was the regional rollout of an eGrowth Chart that enables key body measurements to be tracked electronically and plotted against WHO child growth standards.
“A child’s growth rate is a fundamental measure of health and wellbeing,” explains Professor Taylor, “but it’s no use looking at the data once, it has to be over a period of time. This tool keeps all the information in one place and allows us to make comparisons over time. There is less room for error and saves time – leaving more time for the patient.”
To date, key body measurements of over 6000 children in the South Island have been entered.