Obesity awareness needed for young people

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 20:47 04/07/2013

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An alarming study of Pacific Island children growing up in Auckland has found more than half were classed as obese and 70 per cent as overweight by the age of 10.

"Rapid childhood growth is associated with adult obesity and associated complications including non-communicable disease," the Auckland University of Technology study said.

"These findings suggest that health practitioners should potentially engage and raise awareness with the family of one out of every two Pacific children before they reach 10 years."

With 75,500 Pacific children aged up to 14 in the 2006 census, 38,000 Pacific children may be at potential risk of obesity.

The Pacific Island Families study followed 1225 children who were full term singleton births to mothers without a history of diabetes born at Middlemore Hospital between March and December 2000.

By the age of 10 almost 95 per cent of Pacific boys and girls were above the 50 per cent mark for children's weight measured by the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC). For height, 75 per cent of the Pacific children were above the CDC data's halfway point.

The proportion of Pacific children whose weight and height were above international reference data increased with age, the study said.

For body mass index (BMI), more than 50 per cent of boys and slightly less than 50 per cent of girls would meet obese criteria, being in the top 5 per cent of the CDC data.

More than 75 per cent of 10-year-old Pacific boys and about 70 per cent of girls were above the CDC's 85th percentile line, which was the action point to raise awareness on obesity for children and young people.

The median BMI for a 10-year-old Pacific boy was 23kg/m2, compared to 17kg/m2 for the CDC median boy, the study, led by Professor Elaine Rush from AUT's Centre for Child Health, said.

New Zealand guidelines for the management of weight in children and young people stated that when a BMI was at or above the 85th CDC percentile, then awareness should be raised and clinical risks, needs and context evaluated.

The research, published in the Annals of Human Biology, supported the need to prioritise interventions for Pacific families, starting from before pregnancy.

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