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School trustees to fight the battle of the bulge

School trustees to fight the battle of the bulge

Schools are being urged to walk the walk when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyles and eating habits for New Zealand’s children.

The Executive Director of the Obesity Action Coalition, Celia Murphy will be addressing the issue of New Zealand children’s expanding waistlines at the New Zealand School Trustees Association conference.

The New Zealand School Trustees Association conference is taking place in Palmerston North this weekend. More than 500 school trustees from throughout the country will be discussing issues pertinent to school governance and education.

Celia Murphy says the escalating number of overweight and obese children in New Zealand means boards of trustees must ensure schools are proactive in developing health education policies.

“Schools have a nutrition and health curriculum and this needs to be supported outside the classroom. The need for daily healthy activity has to be reinforced. Healthy food choices also have to be supported, which is not the case in schools when children can buy high fat and high sugar food from tuckshops.”

Statistics from the 2003 National Children’s Nutrition Survey show one in five children aged between 5 and 14 are overweight. One in 10 children in the same age bracket are obese.

With unhealthy body weight comes a raft of health problems – obesity related conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure and obstructive sleep apnoea (airflow deprivation). Overweight children more often than not suffer from low self esteem.

Celia Murphy says she hopes school trustees will come away from the conference armed with practical solutions to prevent obesity in children.

“You can’t expect schools to turn things around overnight – it has to be a gradual process. Removing sugary soft drinks from vending machines and tuckshops is a good start.

“And there are benefits for those who teach children who are eating properly. There is evidence that children who are not drinking soft drinks are easier to teach and more likely to learn.”

Celia Murphy’s workshop, “Overweight and Obese Children,” will be supported by Anna Lindroos, Education Setting Manager for the Heart Foundation and Nicola Potts of Porirua College.

Celia Murphy is one of a diverse range of speakers at the New Zealand School Trustees Association conference. Other topics include restorative justice, waste management and the decile ranking system.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard will be addressing the conference on Saturday, July 10.

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