Healthy lifestyle program lifts health of New Zealand's overweight kids

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-20 16:39:48|Editor: Zhou Xin
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WELLINGTON, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- A pioneering healthy lifestyle program for kids and teens with obesity has resulted in physical and emotional health gains across a group tracked for 12 months, a New Zealand study showed on Friday.

The unique program for five to 16 year olds, pioneered in Taranaki in New Zealand's North Island, was designed to take healthcare out of hospitals and into people's homes and communities.

Researchers from the University of Auckland's Liggins Institute tracked 203 five to 16 year olds who enrolled in the program for 12 months, with results published on Friday in the international journal, Obesity.

New Zealand has the third highest obesity rate in the OECD, which is 30.7 percent of the population, after the United States and Mexico, the study shows.

About 11 percent of New Zealand children aged two to 14 years have obesity, which is an estimated 85,000 children, and children living in most deprived neighborhoods are five times more likely to experience obesity than those from the least deprived areas, according to the study.

"It was evident the best way to address weight issues in young people was to de-medicalize what is a very personal condition, and design a new kind of service that removes the stigma and judgement around obesity," said Yvonne Anderson, researcher of the Liggins Institute and lead author of the study.

The study participants were split into two groups: the "high intensity intervention" and "low intensity group," with those in the "high intensity" group invited to weekly group sessions at community venues on topics including cooking, virtual supermarket tours, sports and physical activity, making persistent lifestyle changes and self-esteem, Anderson said.

The study showed that this approach to obesity management reached sections of society who are most at risk and yet most likely to fall through the cracks in healthcare. Almost three in 10 of the children in the study came from households in the most deprived neighborhoods of Taranaki.

"We want to keep improving the intensive model so that it inspires families from all backgrounds to persist with the program, given our findings show attendance is key to success," Anderson said.