Limit fast-food outlets - researchers

The number of fast-food outlets allowed to open in Christchurch should be limited during the city's rebuild to help combat the rising obesity crisis, researchers say.

A joint University of Canterbury (UC) and Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) research project found support for limiting the number of fast-food outlets in Christchurch, particularly near schools.

UC College of Arts intern Alice Robertson said New Zealand had the third-highest rate of obesity in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind the United States and Mexico.

Obesity was a major health problem around the world, contributing to at least 2.8 million deaths a year and linked to serious diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

The rise in obesity rates had been matched by a rise in fast-food outlets, and research suggested environmental interventions could be an effective way to address the problem, Robertson said.

''People responding to their green environment with fewer food outlets are less likely to become overweight or obese.''

She said steps had been taken to limit the number of outlets in parts of Los Angeles and London, specifically to help address the growing obesity problem.

In a submission on the Christchurch rebuild, the CDHB said a diverse range of food outlets should be encouraged and restrictions should be placed on the number of fast-food outlets located near schools. 

''The Christchurch rebuild provides the city with a unique opportunity to consider this issue and shape an environment which encourages healthy living,'' Robertson said.

An annual survey by the Restaurant Association and the Auckland University of Technology found takeaway outlets across the country expected to see a 9.1 per cent rise in revenues in the year ahead.

The latest Ministry of Health figures show about a million adults in New Zealand are considered obese.

The adult obesity rate has increased 26 per cent in the past five years, and the child obesity rate has increased from 8 per cent in 2006-07 to 10 per cent in 2011-12.

Another 21 per cent of children are considered overweight.

The Press