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Survey Set To Start In Schools

Researchers for New Zealand's first national survey of children's nutrition are starting to visit schools, says the Ministry of Health.

Health Minister Annette King and Education Minister Trevor Mallard have signed a joint letter of support that is being sent to the 160 representative
schools nationwide that are being asked to participate in this study of five to 14-year-old children's food and nutrient intakes, said Director of
Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga.

"This survey will provide important national information on children's food intakes, physical activity and body measurements -- the first study in
New Zealand history to do so.

"Many people worry about whether kids are eating too much junk food, missing out on fruit and veggies and becoming obese. We don't know what the
survey will tell us but at least our concerns and plans to address them will be based on the facts."

By early March, interviewers will be talking with and measuring children who agree and have their parent's or caregiver's consent to participate.
Children will be interviewed in their homes, where possible, and always with their parents or caregivers present. Otherwise, interviews will take
place at schools.

"The information gained from the $4 million survey will help everyone wanting to improve children's health. But for this to happen we need children,
parents, and schools to join in and support the survey."

Researchers are hoping that altogether more than 3000 children from throughout New Zealand will participate, and are particularly hoping Maori and
Pacific children will take part.

The data will also be used in future to look at how children's eating has changed over time. Measuring children's heights and weights will give the
Ministry of Health baseline information about how many New Zealand children are overweight or obese. Blood and urine samples will be taken as the
levels of some nutrients, such as iron, zinc and iodine, are best assessed this way.

Researchers will collect information from February to November 2002, with the results analysed and published in the final report in late 2003.

Auckland UniServices Ltd, of the University of Auckland, has been contracted by the Public Health Intelligence section of the Ministry of Health to
conduct the survey. A research team from three universities will be involved with the survey -- the University of Auckland, the University of Otago,
and Massey University, Palmerston North, is conducting the survey.


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