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Weight loss challenge motivates 500 Auckland Maori

Weight loss challenge motivates 500 Auckland Maori to shed kilos

Sun, 1 Nov 2009 18:13:21 +1300
Media Release

Mana Whenua ki Tamaki Makaurau

Embargoed to 7.00am Monday 2 November

Weight loss challenge motivates 500 Auckland Maori to shed kilos

Maori in Auckland are being encouraged to lose weight by entering a competition believed to be the first of its kind in the country. The 12 Week Whanau Weight-loss Challenge is a unique event initiated by Mana Whenua ki Tamaki Makaurau, which is a consortium if iwi in South Auckland, and is supported by a range of Maori health providers around Auckland.

Almost 500 Maori are participating in the competition – made up of 40 teams of between 10 and 12 members. The competition started in August and will finish towards the end of November, with teams competing for a cash prize of $21,000.

Teams are sponsored by Maori health providers and find ‘their own way’ with the challenge. Mana Whenua ki Tamaki Makaurau offers support and expertise but each team develops their own weight loss plan. This is typically a blend of diet and exercise.

Teams from South and Central Auckland are participating. The winner will be the team that has had the biggest collective weight loss within the period.

“The bigger the collective weigh-in – the bigger the potential weight a whanau team can lose,” says Project Manager Tahuna Minhinnick.

“We are encouraging whanau to seek out and register their bigger whanau members and then to actively support them throughout the challenge. What we hope to achieve by doing this is long term change within the whanau.

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“We are also taking the pressure of individuals and have replaced personal trainers with whanau trainers. I was expecting around 60 people to participate but interest has been overwhelming with 492 registered participants in 41 teams.

“Teams compete for cash prizes of $1000 for things like the funniest video clip and the most innovative whanau activity

“I think whanau are excited about exercising everyday and eating less for the health of the whanau, and I suspect not many participants would have entered the challenge if it was an individual weight-loss challenge.

“Many of the participants in this challenge wear XXX large t-shirts and have medical conditions so the support of GP practices and our Maori health providers has been critical – they are doing a wonderful job.

“I believe that the solutions to Maori health issues like weight-loss need to be collective solutions. We live in large whanau and they all need to be involved in the strategies we develop.”

Tahuna Minhinnick is excited about the results he is seeing even though the competition is only part way through. Teams have posted video footage on the challenge website and the site is registering more than 40,000 visits a month.

“Teams have weighed in at between 1200 and 1600 kilos, and at the end of last week we were seeing losses of around 100 kilos per team.

“Whanau are coming up with new whanau activities. Maori are not bad at designing physical activities. The haka is an example of an activity that has all the right ingredients that inspire Maori to give it their all. I have never seen a haka where someone stops half way through because they are tired.

“We just have to create new whanau activities with the same type of inspirational mojo – we do it and we give it our all.”

Teams will gather for a final weigh-in from 26-28 November and the prize giving will be held at the Telstra Clear Event Centre at Manukau from 6.00-9.00pm on Monday 30 November 2009. All media welcome.


Project Manager Tahuna Minhinnick

Tahuna considers himself a ‘health ideas generator’ and is a veteran in the Maori health and fitness sector. Prior to joining Mana Whenua ki Tamaki Makaurau he was producer of Maraerobics which screened on TVOne and Two and Maori television.

“My goal was to take 30 minutes of exercise into every Maori home in the country everyday,” says the entrepreneurial Minhinnick.

Minhinnick was a driving force behind a marae-based health and fitness centre built in 1981 at Tahuna marae in Waiuku.

“This facility will create the type of Maori health workforce we need for the specific health challenges we face. We have the whare tupuna, whare kai, and now the whare oranga. So a third of our people’s thinking is now squarely focused on the health and fitness interests of the people.

“It is this intensity of health and cultural thinking that is going to provoke and inspire the next wave of Maori thinking about health.

“I like big ideas and collective thinking. The more people involved the bigger the idea can be. Workload and costs can be shared.

“The weight loss challenge combined a number of concepts, things like whanau (family) and wero (challenge). Put the two together and there’s the concept for the challenge.

“You want people to be inspired to lose weight not just educated to lose weight. A big part of the success of this challenge is its collective nature and whanau focus. The teams feed off one another’s enthusiasm. They think they can do it, it’s within the realm of possibility.”

Tania Kingi, Te Roopu Waiora

Tania Kingi is Director of Te Roopu Waiora, a Maori disability support service based in Papatoetoe. Te Roopu Waiora has entered a team of 12 people representing whanau haua (families with disabilities).

“I couldn’t find any health initiative where whanau haua had been involved. People with disabilities need additional support to participate. The deaf need signers, the blind need transport, venues need to be wheelchair accessible.

“When we approached our clients to participate, they were keen. And I was keen to bring them into the fold of mainstream health service activities.”

Te Roopu Waiora has already commenced this journey with the whanau they work with. The organisation’s clients are participating in the District Health Board’s Obesity Action Hubs.

“Maori communities still have stigma around disabilities. We have had organisations ask us to withdraw our people from line dancing because their squealing makes other people uncomfortable.”

The 12 week whanau weight-loss challenge has changed the way the people at Te Roopu Waiora relate to one another.

“Normally the deaf and blind are separated. Now we have deaf whanau who want to play blind hockey, so it’s become a game for the whole disabled whanau. This is a real expression of Whanau Ora.”

The team is losing weight and their programme has incorporated cooking classes for the blind and zumba, which is Latin aerobics from the waist down. And the team stays in touch by text which is now much more user friendly for the deaf.

Tania says the challenge is having a visible impact in South Auckland with large groups of Maori exercising around local streets and parks.

Hilda Ndango, Raukura o Tainui

Te Raukura Hauora o Tainui is a Tainui health provider working across South Auckland and down into the Waikato. The organisation employs around 150 workers and has entered 5 teams of 12 members.

“The teams are made up workers and their whanau,” says Hilda Ndango who is a Mental Health Team Leader for the organisation.

“We joined the challenge because we liked the way the contest was structured. It’s a completely different concept to traditional weight loss because it’s about the collective. The team support one another and there’s a common goal.”

Hilda has been an aerobics instructor in a past life and is spearheading Te Raukura Hauora o Tainui’s challenge. The plan she has developed for the team includes weekly motivational hui, and nutritional coaching.

“I am also holding daily 30 minute aerobic classes and collective lunches where we talk about how to cook healthy and nutritional kai. The challenge has been the talk of the century. It’s great to see staff eating good food and coming to work carrying their gym bags.”

Team members range from 80 to 140 kilos and so far have lost up to 10kgs. Hilda is already thinking about how to maintain the momentum of the challenge once the competition finishes at the end of the month.

“The change of life style and weight loss is really tangible. We’re now proposing that we build a gym on the work site, and we’re thinking about how we incorporate the changes to nutrition in the long term.”

Maori and obesity – the facts

Obesity Rates

57% of Maori men and 60% of Maori women are overweight or obese. 47% of Maori girls and 35% of Maori boys are either overweight or obese.

Eating Patterns and Physical Activity

Maori tend to have higher intakes of fat and sugar compared to Pakeha. Amongst adult populations, Maori and Pakeha are equally active. Amongst younger groups Maori are more active than Pakeha, especially when it comes to girls. Even amongst this group activity levels appear to be declining however. In 2001, the proportion that are active fell from 75% to 66%.

Burden of disease

Maori have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer than Pakeha.


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