Overweight preschoolers worrying
A growing number of fat 4-year-olds has set off alarm bells in Manawatu, where a special programme to combat preschoolers' growing waistlines will begin next week.
The Ministry of Health's Green Prescription Active Families programme, a community-based health scheme, will be extended in the Manawatu region to include preschool children for the first time.
The move comes after Plunket found a growing number of overweight 4-year-olds through the Before School Checks Programme.
Sport Manawatu Active Families co-ordinator Sarah Wilson said the programme was originally set up so families with a child between 5 and 18 could learn healthy lifestyle skills. However, a special 4 to 7 age group would begin next week focusing on fundamental movement skills while still teaching parents about nutrition and active living.
"We'd had a few referrals for 4-year-olds before which we had to sit and wait on until they turned 5 - two or three of which was when it sort of clicked that we needed to do something," she said.
"Unless they are taught these fundamental movement skills at an early age they aren't going to develop the skills or confidence to take part in sport at school."
Ms Wilson said it was an exciting step for Sport Manawatu but the problem was not limited to one region.
"It's good for the families to learn more about nutrition and start that at an earlier age too," she said.
"At 4 we can instil those things before they get to school."
Palmerston North nutritionist Rachel Svenson said it was not unusual to have a 40-kilogram 4-year-old referred for advice.
"Through the Before School Checks we are certainly seeing an increase in that age group," she said. "It's concerning but it's probably the nature of what's happening with obesity in the population anyway. It's definitely out there but I think what's happening now is it's being identified, and with more identification you get more referrals."
In the Manawatu region Plunket holds the Before School Checks contract with iwi health providers.
Plunket Manawatu Whanganui area manager Jo Malcolm-Black said part of the check was to look at a child's growth and record data on a growth chart.
"What we could see is that some children were overweight without their parents or health professionals realising," she said. "And what we know is if we get involved before a child becomes obese then health outcomes for that child and family are improved."
Miss Malcolm-Black said the Active Families programme was a strategy to help parents develop better knowledge to help their children.
"In the past few decades how we eat and how we exercise has changed quite a bit," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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