Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Heart Foundation concern over health of Asians living in New Zealand

A study shows cardiovascular disease and diabetes rates are high among Asian people in New Zealand. Photo / iStock
A study shows cardiovascular disease and diabetes rates are high among Asian people in New Zealand. Photo / iStock

Concerning figures showing a decline in the heart health of Asians living in New Zealand have prompted the Heart Foundation to take action.

A recently-published study shows cardiovascular disease and diabetes rates are high among Asian people in the country compared to New Zealand Europeans.

Obesity prevalence in New Zealand Asian adults rose from 26 per cent to 44 per cent during the period 2002 to 2013, according to the Northern Regional Alliance report called Asian Health in Aotearoa in 2011-2013: Trends since 2002-2003 and 2006-2007.

Asian adults were less likely to be physically active and more likely to be sedentary than New Zealand European adults, according to the report.

Heart Foundation Food and Nutrition Manager, Dave Monro, said fruit and vegetable consumption was worryingly low in Asian populations, with more than half of adults and nearly two thirds of children not meeting the recommended daily serves.

"In light of these concerning statistics, the Heart Foundation is translating a number of its most popular resources into Asian languages," he said.

He said the organisation wanted to help the Asian population improve their heart health, and knew it needed to do so in a language and culturally-appropriate way.

One of the key statistics in the report was that vegetable consumption was worryingly low in Asian populations. Photo / Steven McNicholl
One of the key statistics in the report was that vegetable consumption was worryingly low in Asian populations. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The resources for health workers and the general public included a lunchbox resource and Healthy Heart Visual Food Guides in Hindi and Chinese as well as heart awareness resources on diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, in Hindi, Chinese and Korean.

Mr Monro said the Heart Foundation would use its relationships with schools and early childhood services, medical practitioners and Healthy Families NZ to ensure as wide a reach as possible.

"In addition to these resources, we're looking at focusing our efforts on early intervention, by helping schools and early learning services create environments that encourage physical activity and healthy eating.

"Giving children the best possible start -- whatever their culture or ethnicity -- sets them up with lifelong healthy eating patterns, thereby reducing their future risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases."

The Heart Foundation also worked to make sure the "food environment" in schools and daycare centres was right so children were being exposed to healthy food as well as receiving the correct messages, which they could relay to their families.

Mr Monro said that over the study period from 2003 to 2013 the Asian population in New Zealand almost doubled, accounting for about 11 per cent of the New Zealand population.

In Auckland in 2013 a quarter of the population was Asian. He expected it would be even higher now.

Mr Monro said there needed to be more research to find out how the Asian population changed dietary and lifestyle patterns when they moved to a new country.

"Bottom line, we need more research to find out how the Asian population is adopting these more Western dietary and lifestyle patterns and I guess how we can break the tide a bit on these concerning statistics."

The Heart Foundation was also working with Vegetables New Zealand on resource production for Asian populations.

One of the key statistics in the report was that vegetable consumption was worryingly low in Asian populations.

"More than half of the adults and nearly two thirds of the children didn't meet their recommended daily serves. So that's obviously a concerning one and one that we want to do some work on to improve," Mr Monro said.

- NZ Herald

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