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Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reporter Dawn Picken set out to learn what our community is doing to address the growing problem of childhood obesity.
Whether you and your family are fat, thin or in-between, stemming the obesity epidemic rests on all our shoulders, according to a new report. And experts say failure to address the issue could threaten everyone's health care. The first-ever detailed data by local health officials shows how big some of our smallest neighbours have become.
A new study shows one in five Bay of Plenty 4-year-olds are overweight, some severely so.
The Toi Te Ora Public Health Service B4 School Check data body size technical report states 21.4 per cent of 4800 4-year-old children checked in 2013 and 2014 in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board area were overweight, obese or extremely obese (a 4-year-old girl and boy of average height weighing 20.9kg and 20.5kg, respectively, would be considered extremely obese).
The proportion of extremely obese children was nine times what was expected from the World Health Organization's growth standard.
The phenomenon is illustrated in a graphic (see figure, "Distribution of Body Mass Index z-scores") which shows a black curved line indicating what is expected in a healthy population. Bay of Plenty 4-year-olds' weight scores are shifted to the right, showing high numbers of children identified as overweight to extremely obese. The data also shows a large proportion of children who, while not overweight, still have a BMI above average. In other words, our community's preschoolers are heavier than what's expected in a healthy population.
Report co-author, BOPDHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Neil de Wet, writes, "The fact the entire curve shifted to the right without any real change in shape is good evidence that the problem is not about a small group of children that has become overweight or obese through poor lifestyle choices or poor parenting."