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Significant report on child health released

Significant report on child health released

Health Minister Annette King says today’s release of a significant report on our children’s health poses a challenge to all parts of New Zealand society to encourage children to make wise choices about their health.

“The New Zealand Food: New Zealand Children report is the most important and comprehensive piece of evidence we have yet of the state of our children’s health, and it will influence policy development for many years,” says Ms King.

Ms King says the report consists of the findings of the 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey. “These findings confirm what we've largely suspected about our children's health, and provide critical data that will help create better and more effective policies and public health programmes to improve our children’s health and the nation’s health.”

More than 3000 school children, aged between 5 and 14 years old, and from 172 schools, participated in the Ministry of Health-funded survey last year. The University of Auckland, Massey University (Palmerston North) and the University of Otago conducted the survey.

The questions asked of children included diet and exercise patterns, said Ms King. “The resulting data forms the basis for this comprehensive report on food and nutrient intakes, eating patterns, levels of physical activity, dental health, and nutrition-related clinical measures.”

Ms King says the survey findings provide valuable health information on European, Maori, Pacific and other children.

“Some main findings show that younger children have good levels of food and nutrient intake and physical activity, but as children grow and start making their own food choices, their choices tend to become less well-balanced and they become less active.

“Children's overall fat intakes are satisfactory, but saturated fat (bad fat) intake is higher than ideal, and almost half of sugar intake comes from soft drinks, sugar, and sweets. The findings confirm that we must continue to encourage children to make wiser choices about their health. There are no quick, easy answers to changing lifestyles, but we must make the healthy choice the easy choice for children."

Ms King says shared solutions for improving nutrition and physical acitivity must come from a range of sectors. “These healthy messages should not only come from the home, but from within the community, schools, health professionals, and Government and non-Government organisations.

“One major Government initiative, Healthy Eating, Healthy Action, was launched earlier this year and is a strategic future framework for improving nutrition, obesity-related illness and lack of exercise. The Ministry of Health has also produced a series of informative Food and Nutrition Guidelines for all ages, to help people make smart choices.

"The Government is committed to improving children's health and while this survey’s findings will influence policy development for many years to come, change cannot happen unless we all take up the challenge.”

Copies of New Zealand Food: New Zealand Children. and brochures of selected findings from the survey, are available on: http://www.moh.govt.nz/phi

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