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Māori And Low Income Rural People More Likely To Be More Obese

New academic research across rural New Zealand has found Māori and low income people are likely to be more obese because they do not have access to exercise facilities such as gyms, ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says.

The Griffith University study is the first of its kind in New Zealand. The research looked at the association between the number of physical activity outlets, physical activity intensity opportunities, and obesity prevalence in Aotearoa.

The researchers explored access to exercise facilities such as gym and obesity rates, Beddie says.

“Key findings was that while overall there wasn't any clear link, there was for Māori and low income people. Both had negative correlation so that people without access to gyms were in the higher obesity spectrum.

“While it was early research, it was comprehensive across rural New Zealand, indicating that having access to exercise facilities is essential to being part of the inactivity crisis our country is facing today. This leads to negative health outcomes such as obesity .

“This also shows the need to be targeted in any response to support lack of physical activity. Some groups need much more support but they have worse outcomes due to lack of access to facilities such as gyms.

“We are keen to work with government to ensure more Kiwis have access to exercise facilities, especially those with adverse health outcomes such as low income and Māori in our rural communities.

“With creativity around delivery options that we have learnt through the last few years, this is achievable but will require co-ordination between government and the exercise industry. We are more than happy to work with government on this and help them.”

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Six hundred and fifty million adults are obese worldwide. The 2019-2020 New Zealand health survey reported almost a third (30.9 percent) of Kiwi adults are obese.

Obesity among the Māori ethnic group is significantly higher (47.9 percent) compared to pākehā New Zealanders (29.3 percent). The Survey identified that adults living in socio-economically deprived areas were 1.8 times more likely to be obese compared to adults living outside of these areas

The New Zealand Index of Deprivation reported higher proportions of Māori (23.5 percent) living in socio-economically deprived areas of New Zealand compared to non-Māori (6.8 percent).

Obesity prevalence in the Griffith study was not segregated as per Māori New Zealanders and pākehā New Zealanders.

The researchers says this was important as health disparities and disease burden is considerable higher among Māori New Zealanders than pākehā.

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