Study finds solving obesity epidemic can start at home

September 21, 2017, University of Otago
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Fighting the wave of adolescent obesity in New Zealand could be as simple as establishing family rules and routines around food consumption and limiting screen time, a new University of Otago study has found.

These positive approaches to staying healthy were revealed to be working for study participants, despite them being considered high-risk of the condition - those living in low socioeconomic, Pacific communities.

Lead researcher Dr Tasileta Teevale believes paediatric obesity is a priority for New Zealand as it has one of the world's highest rates, particularly for Pacific New Zealanders.

"As Pacific New Zealanders make up one in four of our under the age of 15 years, it is important for our country, and researchers, to focus on the health of New Zealand's next generation," she said.

The study, funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, used a novel solution-focused approach which looked at what families were doing well to keep themselves healthy.

This approach "highlights family resilience and agency," Dr Teevale said, as well as urged the research community to focus on highlighting positive behaviours to solve entrenched health issues.

It was important for solutions to come from the communities of interest, particularly for obesity research which could stigmatise people with the condition.

Researchers interviewed and assessed 68 parents and adolescents from 30 Pacific Island families in a low socioeconomic neighbourhood.

In analysing the data, the researchers were guided by one key question: how did the two households, one with an obese adolescent and one with a healthy weight adolescent, differ in terms of food and physical activity practices in the home?

They found three key differences:

  1. Parents with healthy weight children regularly ate breakfast and lunch while parents of often skipped these meals due to time constraints and work commitments, such as working night shifts. In either case, children matched their parents' eating habits. In addition, obese children often substituted breakfast at home with high-energy store-bought food as breakfast on-the-run. One study participant reported buying fizzy drink and a pie for breakfast was common.
  2. Parents with healthy weight children had specific, strict, household food rules, such as banning fizzy drinks, cooking homemade meals, and not buying junk food.
  3. Households with healthy weight children had rules limiting (such as television and electronic gaming).

These "resiliency factors" can be applied to obesity prevention and treatment programs and shows that solutions to obesity lie within the community.

This may be particularly effective for Pacific people, and other ethnic minority groups, who value role modelling from families with similar circumstances and backgrounds.

Along with adopting the habits of households, the researchers recommended banning the sale of sugary drinks in schools.

"How can we say to parents to not have fizzy drinks at home, yet, when the schools are teaching about healthy nutrition in health class, and then the bell rings, students can purchase sugary beverages at the school canteen?

We need to follow World Health Organisation guidelines. The present government has been too pro-industry and anti-public health in its approach. In this way, the Minister of Health has been unsupportive of New Zealand's next generation health status,'' Dr Teevale said.

Explore further: Study sheds light on diet of children with weight issues

More information: Tasileta Teevale et al. Using appreciative inquiry methodology to develop a weight management program for obese children in New Zealand, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2017). DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12719

Related Stories

Study sheds light on diet of children with weight issues

November 25, 2016
A new, in depth study of children and teenagers struggling with weight issues highlights that their eating habits were poor, and sugary drink consumption was at concerning volumes on a daily basis in many.

School breakfasts contribute to healthy weight, study finds

March 17, 2016
Middle school students who eat breakfast at school—even if they have already had breakfast at home—are less likely to be overweight or obese than students who skip breakfast, says a new study by the Community Alliance ...

Early childhood the key to improving Indigenous health

March 30, 2017
A major study into the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has found programs and policies to promote healthy weight should target children as young as three.

Sugary drinks weigh heavily on teenage obesity

March 26, 2014
New research shows sugary drinks are the worst offenders in the fight against youth obesity and recommends that B.C. schools fully implement healthy eating guidelines to reduce their consumption.

Obesity a concern? Don't use sweets to reward children's behaviour, reduce screen time

October 2, 2012
Cutting screen time and not rewarding children's good behaviour with sweets are among the steps parents could take to reduce overweight and obesity in children before they start school, according to research by the University ...

Only one-third of parents think they are doing a good job helping kids eat healthy

February 20, 2017
If you know healthy eating is important for your kids but you also feel like it's easier said than done, you're not alone.

Recommended for you

BMI is a good measure of health after all, new study finds

December 11, 2018
A new study from the University of Bristol supports body mass index (BMI) as a useful tool for assessing obesity and health.

A correlation between obesity and income has only developed in the past 30 years

December 11, 2018
It is well known that poorer Americans are more likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes; there is a strong negative correlation between household income and both obesity and diabetes. This negative correlation, however, ...

Simple tips to curb overindulgence can help stop pounds piling on at Christmas

December 10, 2018
A study by the University of Birmingham and Loughborough University has shown that regular weighing at home and simple tips to curb excess eating and drinking can prevent people from piling on the pounds at Christmas.

Obesity intervention needed before pregnancy

December 6, 2018
New research from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute supports the need for dietary and lifestyle interventions before overweight and obese women become pregnant.

Gene that lets you eat as much as you want holds promise against obesity

December 4, 2018
It sounds too good to be true, but a novel approach that might allow you to eat as much food as you want without gaining weight could be a reality in the near future.

High childhood BMI linked to obesity at age 24 in women

December 3, 2018
Girls who gain weight more rapidly between the ages of 5 and 15 are more likely to be obese at age 24, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.