Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Obesity battle solution: Limit food outlets

New research suggests limiting food outlets around schools could help combat the country's increasing obesity problem. Photo / NZ Herald
New research suggests limiting food outlets around schools could help combat the country's increasing obesity problem. Photo / NZ Herald

Limiting the number of food outlets around schools could help combat New Zealand's growing obesity problem, new research shows.

The research, performed by Canterbury University and the Canterbury District Health Board, follows the release of a new report showing New Zealanders' increasing appetite for takeaways.

The new research, headed by Canterbury University College of Arts intern Alice Robertson, was centred around the Canterbury rebuild and looked at the benefits of limiting the number of takeaway outlets in the city.

"Obesity has become a major health problem all over the world, killing at least 2.8 million people a year and taxing health care systems with expensive chronic disease treatments,'' Ms Robertson said.

In New Zealand, about one million adults and about 10 per cent of children were obese, according to Health Ministry data for 2012.

Ms Robertson's research indicated "environmental interventions'' could be an effective way to tackle New Zealand's weight woes.

"Limiting the number of outlets, particularly around schools, may be an effective way to address the obesity epidemic,'' she said.

Parts of Los Angeles and London have already placed restrictions on the number of food outlets to help combat obesity.

According to a hospitality industry report, published today, New Zealanders ate their way through nearly $1.5 billion takeaways last year - a 9 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

The report also showed takeaway sales had risen 25 per cent over a four-year period.

New Zealand's weight problems have become a growing burden on the public health system.

Previous research from Auckland University estimated more than four per cent of the annual health care budget was spent caring for overweight and obese people. This equated to $624 million being spent on overweight and obese health care in 2006, privately and publicly.

However, the researchers warned New Zealand's obesity rates have since risen, with Health Ministry figures showing in 2006/07 26 per cent of adults were obese, compared to 28 per cent in 2011/12.

Conditions like type two diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer were linked to obesity.

Ms Robertson said the Christchurch rebuild was a unique opportunity for the city to address the issue of obesity and ``shape an environment which encourages healthy living.''.

Obesity in NZ:

* 3rd highest rate of obesity in the OECD, following USA and Mexico

* 28 per cent of Kiwi adults were obese in 2011/12

* Up from 26 per cent in 2006/07 and 19 per cent in 1997

* 10 per cent of Kiwi kids were obese in 2011/12

- APNZ

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