Measure speed not waistline says nutritionist
Efforts to address obesity epidemics require updated data.NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
It's better to measure how fast a child can run 50 metres than resort to measuring every child at school in an effort to tackle childhood obesity, a Kiwi nutrition says.
The move is being touted over the ditch by researchers who say efforts to address the obesity epidemic in Australia were being hampered by inadequate and outdated data.
Researchers from Deakin University's World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention said the federal government needed to introduce a population-wide program to monitor childhood obesity, which was ''a fundamental component of prevention''.
But New Zealand's Ministry of Health told the Times their annual Health survey - which weighed and measured around 4500 children between 2-14 years - would provide enough data for them to work from.
It also provided data around breakfast and fast food consumption, which could be analysed with the weight data to provide more meaningful information, the said.
So weighing and measuring all school age children was not a move they'd considered.
The results of the most recent health survey are not available until November, but a previous survey in 2006/07 showed 8.3 per cent of children aged 2-14 were obese and 20 per cent were overweight.
Professor of Nutrition, Elaine Rush, said there were more important indicators to obesity than simply measuring a child and hoped New Zealand wouldn't introduce nationwide measuring.
Mrs Rush, who led the highly praised Project Energise in Waikato schools, said a better measure was how fast a child could run 50 metres.
''And that is something that could be easily incorporated into the physical education component of the curriculum.
''It also gives the child something to aim for because they do love to run. I think we do need to monitor our children's health, but just measuring weight and heights is not useful for an individual.''
Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokesperson Dr Robyn Toomath said doing so would further stigmatise overweight children.
But if it was to be done, every child would have to take part to reduce that.
''But my personal view is that the risk for stigmatisation is considerable.
''When you start weighing children in school it does reinforce the idea that not only is it the child's fault, but even more that it's the parents fault.''
She said the better solution to reduce obesity was to distigmatise it by moving away from individual blame, to a focus on genetics and biology.
She said stigmatising, like what had been done to reduce smoking rates, had been shown not to work for obesity.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY (Ministry of Health)
- One in twelve children (aged 2 to 14 years) are obese
- One in five children were overweight
- Pacific children are at least 2.5 times more likely to be obese
- Maori children are 1.5 times more likely to be obese
- © Fairfax NZ News
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