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King backs Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Awards

18 July 2002

King backs Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Awards

Health Minister Annette King says obesity has become an epidemic in New Zealand and other western nations, with more than 1000 New Zealand adults dying each year from obesity-related diseases.

Launching the National Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award programme in Johnsonville today, Ms King said more than half the New Zealand adult population is overweight, with 17 percent of these New Zealanders obese.

Ms King warned that it also appeared that “children are becoming increasingly obese. We are seeing the consequences of this increase in the earlier onset of diabetes and high blood pressure and other obesity-related diseases. Obese children are also more likely to grow into obese adults than non-obese children.

“There is increasing evidence, however, that healthy food choices and behaviour patterns adopted during childhood are maintained into and through adulthood. Studies have shown that preschool children who are active at 3 and 4 years of age are more active as adults than less active preschoolers.”

Ms King said the National Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award programme recognised such evidence. “Its aim is formally to recognise early childhood centres that promote healthy food and physical activity. The objective of the award is to influence the knowledge, attitudes and practices of teachers at early childhood centres, together with the parents and families of the preschoolers.

“The award has a number of components, including the development of nutrition and physical activity policies, teacher professional development, parent and whanau education, the use of healthy menus and lunchbox guidelines, and linking of nutrition and physical activities to the curriculum.

“I am excited by the idea of using healthy lunch-box and activity policies to create a supportive environment, and health education to help teachers and parents improve their knowledge and skills. Evidence shows that prevention of obesity is preferable to treatment. Early childhood seems a suitable time to begin.

“One devastating consequence of childhood obesity is the social problems and discrimination children suffer. Obese children suffer mercilessly at the hands of other children. Overseas research shows that children as young as six use words such as lazy, dirty, stupid, ugly, liar and cheat when shown the picture of an obese child.

“Large surveys have shown that obese children are likely to complete fewer years at school, and are less likely to be accepted into prestigious schools or enter desirable professions. Their obesity affects every part of their life into adulthood, including the jobs they get and the income they earn.”


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