Childhood obesity plan

This package of initiatives aims to prevent and manage obesity in children and young people up to 18 years of age.

The package has three focus areas, made up of 22 initiatives, which are either new or an expansion of existing initiatives:

  1. Targeted interventions for those who are obese
  2. Increased support for those at risk of becoming obese
  3. Broad approaches to make healthier choices easier for all New Zealanders.

The focus is on food, the environment and being active at each life stage, starting during pregnancy and early childhood.

The package brings together initiatives across government agencies, the private sector, communities, schools, families and whānau.


Development of this initial package drew on recent New Zealand and international evidence including the interim report from the World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. A technical advisory group also provided advice to the Ministry of Health on evidence for effective interventions and targets.

The Ministry also held a forum with members of the processed food and beverage industries as well as working with other government agencies including Sport NZ, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office, Health Promotion Agency and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The plan arranged in a triangle: targeted initiatives at the top, support in the middle, and community initiatives at its base

Targeted initiatives

Childhood obesity health target – Before School Check (B4SC) referrals

Raising Healthy KidsA new health target will be implemented from 1 July 2016: ‘By December 2017, 95% of obese children identified in the Before School Check (B4SC) programme will be referred to a health professional for clinical assessment and family based nutrition, activity and lifestyle interventions.’ The target was selected as the B4SC focuses on early intervention to ensure positive, sustained effects on health.

Access to nutrition and physical activity programmes for families

Families referred through the B4SC programme will have improved access to nutrition and physical activity programmes, such as Active Families.

Increased support

KiwiSport will have a greater focus on low participation groups

Sport NZ and Regional Sports Trusts will refocus some of the KiwiSport Regional Partnership Fund to provide more sport opportunities for young people in communities where participation rates are low and the risk of poor health is higher. Sport NZ is also working with Regional Sports Trusts to realign some general community investment towards low-participating young people.  

Sport NZ, Auckland Council and Aktive – Auckland Sport and Recreation want to understand more about the sport and physical activity needs of local Samoan and Indian communities, particularly young people. Funding from Sport NZ will help research the needs of these communities so that effective interventions can be introduced to raise their involvement in sport and physical activity.

Clinical guidance for weight management in New Zealand children and young people

Guidelines are available that provide evidence-based guidance for the management of overweight and obesity in children and young people. Health professionals can use these guidelines to support and advise families.

Guidance for healthy weight gain in pregnancy

An estimated one third of women of normal weight and 60% of obese women gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy. Guidance for Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy (published June 2014) supports a reduction in the incidence of inappropriate weight gain in pregnancy, and provides advice to women regarding weight management prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-partum.

Gestational diabetes guidelines

The guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for the screening and diagnosis of both probable undiagnosed type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes in pregnancy to improve neonatal and maternal outcomes. It is expected that approximately 600 more women will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes early in pregnancy and 1200 more women will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes as a result of this guideline being implemented.

Referrals to Green Prescriptions for pregnant women (at risk of gestational diabetes)

A Green Prescription (GRx) is a health professional’s written advice to a patient to become more active and improve their nutrition. Lead Maternity Carers of women with, or at risk of, gestational diabetes will be encouraged to refer to the GRx initiative. The expected referral rate is 50%. Between 3000 and 4000 women a year are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, this is approximately 6% of women who give birth each year.

Broad population approaches

Health Star Rating promotion

The Health Star Rating is a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling system developed for use in New Zealand and Australia. Health Stars help consumers to make better informed, healthier choices quickly and easily. A consumer campaign will commence in March 2016.

Marketing and advertising to children

Children’s food choices and requests are strongly influenced by advertising. Advertising in New Zealand is self-regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is funded by industry. The ASA will undertake a review of the Code for Advertising to Children and the Children’s Code for Advertising Food.

Partnership with industry

Food and beverage industry leaders are keen to work in partnership with the government and already have a number of initiatives underway. Discussions have been held on the role industry can play in helping to address childhood obesity. These discussions have included the possibility of voluntary industry pledges, and changes to food labelling, marketing and advertising to children.

Information and resources for general public

The Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Agency will develop additional nutrition and physical activity advice for the public. Having accurate and easily accessible information is important to help people make better choices about food and physical activity.

Public awareness campaign

A national media campaign launched in November 2015 focused on childhood obesity and targeted parents and caregivers of children aged under 18 years of age. You can find out more about the campaign and get affordable family meal and activity ideas on the Eat Move Live website. aims to improve the quality and quantity of physical education and sport in schools. is a national approach and aligned with recently released global best practice for achieving quality physical education and physical activity. It will be phased in at sites from Term 1, 2016.

Physical activity guidelines for under-5s

Active Movement is a set of resources for those who care for under-5s. The resources cover age and stage appropriate fundamental movement skills, activities and information. The evidence to support physical activity, fundamental movement skills, sedentary behaviour and sleep is being reviewed. The Active Movement resources will be updated in line with current evidence.

Sport in Education programme expansion

Sport in Education is an innovative approach to engaging students by putting learning into a context they understand (sport). Currently running in 8 schools nationwide. 15 more schools will be able to access the programme from 2016.

Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Award

The Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding achievements in early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling. The Focus prize for the 2016 awards celebrates a focus on collaboration along the whole education pathway to improve health, wellbeing, and learning success for every child and young person.

Teachers’ Professional Learning and Development

Professional Learning and Development (PLD) builds the knowledge and skills of teachers and education leaders, which in turn delivers measurable gains for students. A PLD pilot, starting in 2016, will support and challenge teachers to accelerate students’ achievement in the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) learning area of Health and Physical Education.

Education Review Office report on schools

The Education Review Office will undertake a special review of how early learning and schools’ curriculum promotes positive attitudes about health, physical activity and nutrition. Planning for the review will start in Term 4, 2015.

Health Promoting Schools

Health Promoting Schools (HPS) support will be expanded to 150 more decile 1–4 primary and intermediate schools, and those with high Māori, Pasifika or vulnerable groups over the next two years. HPS supports school communities to be more proactive about their health and wellbeing.

Healthy Families NZ

Healthy Families NZ is the Government’s flagship prevention platform, and a key part of the Government’s wider approach to helping New Zealanders live healthy, active lives. The initiative is being rolled out in 10 locations across New Zealand including the Far North, Waitakere, Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura, Rotorua, Whanganui, East Cape, Lower Hutt, Spreydon-Heathcote and Invercargill. The rollout is being supported by $40 million over 4 years committed in Budget 2014. Healthy Families NZ has the potential to impact the lives of over one million New Zealanders. 

DHB healthy food policies

As at 1 October, all district health boards (DHBs) have made a commitment to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from their campuses. All DHBs will have this policy fully implemented by January 2016. DHBs have also committed to having up to date healthy food policies in place and available on their websites by 30 December 2015.

Go to National DHBs and Ministry healthy food and beverage environments policy to find out more.

Eating and Activity Guidelines for adults

The new Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults (published October 2015) provide evidence-based, population health statements on nutrition and activity, including maintaining a healthy body weight. Although focused on adults, the Guidelines provide fundamental advice on healthy eating and regular activity that applies across the life-course.

Learn more about obesity, activity, and nutrition

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