Excess weight (obesity) is associated with many health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, ischaemic heart disease (IHD), stroke, several common cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and reproductive abnormalities in adults.
Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults and to have abnormal lipid profiles, impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure at a younger age. Obesity in children is also associated with musculoskeletal problems, asthma and psychological problems including body dissatisfaction, poor self esteem, depression and other mental health problems.
The World Health Organization describes the prevalence of obesity as an epidemic.
Obesity in New Zealand
New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates continue to increase. One in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is classified as obese, and one in ten children.
- For the most recent obesity figures for adults and children in New Zealand see the Obesity data and stats section.
What we are we doing to address obesity
The Government is taking a broad population approach to achieving healthy weight, with a focus on improved nutrition and increased physical activity. The approach is designed to help address the significant health losses associated with non-communicable diseases in New Zealand.
Building on the Childhood Obesity Plan 2015, the government is focusing on the following actions to create supportive environments:
- Healthy Active Learning is a new Wellbeing Budget 2019 initiative that will promote and improve healthy eating and physical activity in all schools, kura, early learning services and kohanga reo across Aotearoa. This initiative, jointly implemented by the Ministries of Health and Education and Sport New Zealand, will provide schools and early learning services with new health and physical education curriculum resources, as well as health promotion staff to support healthy food and water-only policies. Physical activity advisors will also work with selected primary and intermediate schools to help develop environments that encourage play, sport and physical education
- working with district health boards to implement the National Healthy Food and Drink Policy, across a range of settings
- updating the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for pregnant women and children 0–2 years (last updated in 2008) and integrating them into the Eating and Activity Guidelines
- co-leading New Zealand’s response to the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity, with Sport New Zealand
- supporting the implementation of the Clinical Guidelines for Weight Management in New Zealand Children and Young People, initially through improving measurement and monitoring of growth and weight in primary care and Well Child providers, which includes providing an online BMI calculator and through the provision of sleep resources
- working with the food and beverage industry sector to identify actions to create healthier food environments.
Other resources or initiatives that encourage healthy eating, physical activity and adequate sleep include:
- Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults
- Physical Activity Guidelines, including sleep and screen time, for children under 5 years and for children and young people aged 5–17 years
- Clinical Guidelines for Weight Management for Adults and for Children and Young People
- Fruit in Schools, which provides a piece of fruit or vegetable each day to children in decile 1 and 2 primary schools
- Breastfeeding support: all DHB maternity facilities must ensure support for breastfeeding is available from birth. Other breastfeeding support activities include peer support networks, social media, free lactation consultation services and events such as the Big Latch On
- Green Prescriptions (GRx), which are scripts from a doctor or practice nurse referring the patient to a green prescription support person, who provides support to enable the person to be more active
- Active Families: community-based health initiatives designed to increase physical activity and improve nutrition in children and young people aged 5–18 years and their whānau/families.
Food Industry Taskforce Report
In December 2018 the Food Industry Taskforce on Addressing Factors Contributing to Obesity provided a report to Ministers identifying actions that industry members could take to further address obesity.
Go to Food Industry Taskforce Report to see the report and the joint letter of response from the Ministers of Health and Food Safety.