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Survey Echos Sparc Physical Activity Statistics

MEDIA RELEASE 7 NOVEMBER ‘03

Results From Nutritional Survey Of New Zealand Chilren
Echo Sparc Physical Activity Statistics

The poor state of children’s nutrition in New Zealand is reflected in SPARC (Sport & Recreation New Zealand) statistics on physical activity rates of Maori and Pacific young people.

SPARC Chief Executive, Nick Hill, speaking today at the release of the Ministry of Health’s national children’s nutrition survey, says the Ministry’s research has major implications for SPARC as one of the Agencies charged with responding to these results.

“It’s impossible to separate the issues of nutrition and physical activity in some partisan fashion as the two share obvious links and mutual health benefits. If we eat well and move more we’ll be a healthier nation. We ignore the consequences of rising levels of childhood obesity at our peril,” he says.

“While using quite different methodologies, the Ministry’s findings support some of our own findings regarding physical activity patterns among young people. For example, boys are more active than girls. However, our trend data from ’97 to ’01 found that while European and Maori children are similarly active, Pacific young people are the least active.”

“The health benefits of physical activity, like those of healthy eating, are beyond question. The challenge we’ve been issued with is how to play our part in ensuring that good eating and adequate physical activity levels are habits which are formed in childhood and maintained into adult life,” he says.

SPARC’s General Manager Participation, Deb Hurdle, says that with childhood obesity on the rise it’s sobering to look at current adult statistics and the consequences of inadequate physical activity and poor diets.

“Physical inactivity contributes to 2,500 deaths per year in New Zealand, and is one of the biggest contributors to avoidable death. It’s been estimated that a 10 percent increase in participation in physical activity could result in 600 fewer deaths per year.

“Cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes are increasing in New Zealand. Obesity and diabetes are forecast to continue to increase. In 1996, Mäori and Pacific people were about three times more likely to have type-two diabetes and this trend is forecast to worsen,” she says.

Deb Hurdle says SPARC, in partnership with other agencies, is responding to the challenge of rising levels of childhood obesity. These include a range of prevention and treatment initiatives.

“We’ve now signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Ministries of Health and Education. These promote a cross-government approach to schools-based interventions across physical activity promotion, nutrition, teacher training, and curricular material. Internationally, this approach has proven to be among the most effective of interventions currently in practice.

“SPARC supports the implementation of the Healthy Eating Healthy Action strategy. For the strategy to be implemented effectively, it will need new resourcing and a common appreciation and approach to the issues and solutions. In terms of physical activity, SPARC has the responsibility to take the lead role in this regard.

“SPARC also facilitates the Primary School Physical Activity Pilot that sees Physical Activity Coordinators in schools in Auckland and Christchurch. Their role is to increase physical activity uptake by children, in schools and the community. As part of this role, the Coordinators work with the wider community including clubs and Territorial Authorities.

“We have new Green Prescription initiatives with children in the Auckland, Tasman and Waikato Districts. These programmes involve communication with doctors, practice nurses, families, teachers and other people associated with these children.

“Included in these initiatives is a Sport Auckland Young and Active Programme that started as a six-month pilot in April last year. This sees physical activity included as part of the rehabilitation of young overweight children, including their families, and is run in collaboration with the Auckland District Health Board’s Food with Attitude Programme,” she says.

Nick Hill says SPARC doesn’t pretend to hold the magic bullet solution to the issue of childhood obesity.

“We’re working in a multi-agency approach to develop meaningful and effective responses to this issue. We’ll continue to refine the programmes currently being piloted, identifying and sharing best practice with our partners in the Ministry of Health, Education and other parties working to improve the quality of life of young Kiwis. And we’ll continue to focus our efforts on getting more people, more active, more often.”

ENDS

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