Waikato anti-fat scheme catches on

Project Energise 'makes healthy children'

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 13:40 11/12/2012

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A Waikato initiative is being looked at as a model for growing healthier children in New Zealand. 

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that it will be considering rolling out the Project Energize initiative nationwide in an effort to improve the health of kiwi kids. 

Project Energize, a collaborative programme run by Sport Waikato and funded by Waikato DHB, is a health programme where ''Energizers'' work with all 244 primary schools in the Waikato.

They help to improve children's physical activity and nutrition, thereby reducing obesity rates and cardiovascular risk factors. 

Project Energize started in 2005, and has proven results with participants having smaller waists, a lower obesity rate - three per cent less than the national average and lower body weights and body mass indexes.

Children involved in the programme also run 20 seconds faster compared to national data gathered for the same age groups between 2001 and 2007.

Project Energize project manager Stephanie McLennan said the government had shown interest in the project, but now it was a matter of funding. 

Mrs McLennan said Project Energize had amazing results in the Waikato region and it was special because ''Energizers'' - the people that run the programme - work with schools to make a programme that fits their individual criteria.

''They come up with a plan that's just for them. It's individualised to the school,'' she said. ''I think that's what makes it special.''

Mrs McLennan said she was eager to see the programme rolled out in other regions, and they were currently working with Counties Manukau and Northland schools to establish programmes for them.

''We have been sharing resources and training them,'' she said. ''It would be really great to see those opportunities go to children in other regions.''

But changes to the programme were a no go for Mrs McLennan as she said schools must take the programme in its entirety to get the results Waikato has. 

''It's not pick and choose,'' she said. ''They have to have the whole menu of opportunities.''

Minister of Health Tony Ryall  said the project was still in the early stages of consideration, and outcomes would be dependant on budget decisions in years to come. 

''The Ministry is investigating expanding the successful Project Energize, however it is still very early days,'' he said

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