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Children should walk to school


Children should walk to school

With more than half of primary school children being driven to school, double the number from ten years ago, it is no surprise child obesity rates have tripled in the same period, says Heather Staley Chief Executive of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

Ms Staley was commenting on the results of a Hawke's Bay study published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health that shows the proportion of children classed as overweight has almost doubled from 11 percent in 1989 to 20.9 percent in 2000 and obese children has more than tripled from 2.4 to 9.1 percent.

"Walking to and from school is the easiest way to ensure children get exercise every day and walking school buses provide a safe way for primary school children to do that.

"Exercise is only part of the solution to childhood obesity, but walking to school is also part of the solution to New Zealand's increasing energy use. Transport fuels account for 43 percent of New Zealand's total energy consumption, and are responsible for around 46 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Transport is not only our hungriest energy user, it's also the fastest growing. Short car trips, such as those to and from school, account for around one third of all car trips in New Zealand - and they are the least efficient.

"Many parents drive their children to school because of safety concerns. The beauty of walking school buses is that children are in safe groups with adult supervision. Children love getting to know other children from their neighbourhood and teachers say that the children get to school more alert and ready to learn.

"There are more than 240 walking school buses taking some 3,000 children to and from schools around New Zealand. For information on how to start a walking school bus, parents should contact their council's road safety coordinator or visit www.eeca.govt.nz/streetwise.asp," Ms Staley said.

Ms Staley said EECA is implementing the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy through improving energy choices.

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