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UC intern finds support for limiting food outlets in Chch

UC intern finds support for limiting food outlets in Christchurch rebuild

July 2, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) intern says her research has found support for limiting the number of fast food outlets, particularly around schools, to combat obesity.

UC College of Arts intern Alice Robertson says her project with the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) looked at benefits restricting the number of food outlets in the Christchurch rebuild.

``New Zealand has the third highest rates of obesity in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), putting us just behind the United States and Mexico. These rates are higher for Maori and Pacific Islanders and rates of childhood obesity are very high.

``Obesity has become a major health problem all over the world, killing at least 2.8 million people a year and taxing health care systems with expensive chronic disease treatments,’’ Robertson says.

The rise in obesity rates have been paralleled by a rise in the concentration of fast food outlets, both within New Zealand and internationally. Obesity is linked to a number of serious diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The cost of dealing with obesity related illness places a huge burden on the public health care system. The Government has identified obesity as a key area of concern.

``Research suggests that environmental interventions may be an effective way to address obesity. People responding to their green environment with fewer food outlets are less likely to become overweight or obese.

``Limiting the number of outlets, particularly around schools, may be an effective way to address the obesity epidemic. Such research is being taken seriously and the body of research in the area is growing.

``Steps have been taken to limit the number and operation of outlets in parts of Los Angeles and London, explicitly to address obesity. 

``The CDHB included in their submission on the Christchurch rebuild that a diverse range of food outlets need to be encouraged and that restrictions need to be placed on the number of fast food outlets located near schools.

``The Christchurch rebuild provides the city with a unique opportunity to consider this issue and shape an environment which encourages healthy living,’’ Robertson says.

The GeoHealth Lab at UC has conducted a significant amount of research on obesity.

ENDS

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