News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Neighbourhoods could hold key to getting kids more active

Monday, 31 October 2016

Neighbourhoods could hold key to getting kids more active

Prising children away from the couch and their electronic devices is an all too common challenge for many parents. But a new study aims to find out if certain changes to our neighbourhoods could encourage children to be more physically active – and help reduce New Zealand’s childhood obesity epidemic.

Associate Professor Melody Smith from the University of Auckland has received one of five prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Fellowships from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) in its latest funding round to explore how environmental changes can impact on children’s physical activity and body size.

In this study Dr Smith will compare changes in children’s physical activity, active travel, and body size across different conditions in Māngere, Auckland. These conditions include where ‘intensive’ and ‘light’ infrastructural interventions have been made across neighbourhoods to make physical activity such as walking and cycling easier and safer.

Built environments in our neighbourhoods, which include not only buildings but the human-made spaces between buildings (e.g., parks) and infrastructure that supports human activity (e.g., transport networks), are more likely to have a greater influence on children’s levels of physical activity in the long term than individual factors alone, says Dr Smith.

“After smoking, insufficient physical activity is the greatest cause of chronic disease in New Zealand. Unfortunately, individual, education-based strategies to generate sustained improvements in physical activity have proven unsuccessful at the population level,” says Dr Smith.

Despite significant investment and public health initiatives, childhood obesity has increased in the past decade from 8 per cent in 2008 to 11 per cent in 2015. A third of New Zealand children are classified as ‘insufficiently physically active for health’.

“Our aim with this research is to provide evidence-based recommendations for built environment design features that support the best physical activity outcomes in children,” says Dr Smith.

HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson says Dr Smith is an internationally recognised leader in children’s physical activity research whose prior research at Auckland University of Technology has been translated to policy and practice for promoting physical activity and recreation, all of which bodes well for her fellowship.

“Melody’s fellowship research specifically addresses the goals of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, which places great emphasis on initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity. We know that physical activity is essential for healthy physical, psychological, and emotional development in children, so funding research in this area is incredibly important,” says Professor McPherson.

This year the HRC has awarded five of its top Sir Charles Hercus fellowships worth a combined total of $2,440,000. See below for the list of all the recipients in the HRC’s general career development awards category, or go to and filter for ‘Career development awards’ and ‘2017’.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis Review: Tarantino's Pitch-Perfect Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Welcome back to the violent and misogynistic, yet always entertaining world of Quentin Tarantino, who this time around focuses his dyspeptic lens on Tinseltown's pimply backside. More>>

Westpac Exiting Cake Tin: Stadium Announces Naming Rights Agreement With Sky

Wellington Regional Stadium Trust (WRST) and Sky Network Television Ltd (Sky) have announced a new partnership that will see Sky secure the naming rights of the Stadium from 1 January 2020. More>>


ASB Classic: Serena Williams Confirmed For 2020

One of the biggest names in sport has confirmed she will be returning to the ASB Classic in 2020. Twenty-three time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams will return to Auckland’s ASB Tennis Arena to challenge for the ASB Classic title. More>>

Netball: Taurua To Coach Silver Ferns Through Two More Campaigns

Netball New Zealand has confirmed Taurua will guide the Silver Ferns as they take on the Australian Diamonds in October’s Cadbury Netball Series (Constellation Cup), along with the Northern Quad Series in late January. More>>




  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland