Local kids riding health wave

23:57, Jun 26 2014
Waimataitai Kindergarten
WAVE INITIATIVE: Waimataitai Kindergarten children proudly sit among their healthy produce. From left to right, Liam Wright, Charlotte Spitter and Danni Foster.

South Canterbury children are less overweight than those in many other parts of the country, and a child-focused health initiative is being given some of the credit.

The healthy-eating programme Wave is helping keep children on the straight and narrow of a healthy lifestyle.

Community and public health team leader Janice Hampton said Wave was created when the South Canterbury District Health Board, Ministry of Education and Sport Canterbury partnered in 2007 to encourage healthy lifestyles in children.

"Wave remains the only health promotion initiative in New Zealand that engages with all early childhood education settings, primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary providers," she said.

A New Zealand Health survey done between 2011 and 2013 estimated about 6 per cent of children aged 2-14 might be considered overweight in the South Canterbury region, compared with 11 per cent of the total population.

Hampton said for young adults aged 15-24, the average prevalence of obesity was similar in South Canterbury to the rest of New Zealand, at about 20 per cent.


However, she cautioned about the small sample sizes used for the survey and other influencing factors, adding that the results were preliminary only.

The goal for Wave is to work to improve health and learning outcomes through environmental change, including in the wider community.

"Wave works to achieve sustainable improvements within education settings, and nutrition is just one of the areas we work with. Over the years we have seen considerable change within education settings, including a greater awareness among parents, teachers, auxiliary staff and pupils with regard to health issues and in healthy eating," Hampton said.

Several schools have breakfast clubs that are supported by Wave and healthy-eating cooking classes. School canteens have also had input from the Wave nutrition health promoter.

"Healthy kai bags with healthy recipes are an example of the multiple resources we have available through the Wave Resource Centre and through the Wave facilitator or the Wave website."

There was general agreement that awareness of healthy foods and the importance of involving the wider school community had improved considerably, she said.

The Timaru Herald