How can long legislators bury their heads in the sand over childhood obesity?

This week it emerged Auckland schoolchildren are almost 2kg heavier than they were seven years ago.

The findings are contained in a Healthy Auckland Together monitoring report where it found the average weight of Auckland children aged up to 14 was 1.8kg heavier in 2017 compared to 2011. The proportion of obese or overweight children in that age group jumped from 28 per cent to 37 per cent.

Interestingly, the proportion of Auckland 4 year olds who were obese fell from 10.4 per cent in 2012 to 8.2 per cent in 2016.


Healthy Auckland Together spokesman Dr Michael Hale says limiting screen time, encouraging physical play and a focus on healthy lunchboxes seems to be keeping pre-schoolers at a more healthy weight but as children aged, the influence of parents decreased.

If that's the case, it boosts the argument that the Government needs to take a hard look at the impact of the marketing of unhealthy food choices.

It suggests that as the influence of parents wanes, children are more vulnerable to messages outside the home encouraging them to make unhealthy food choices.

Last year researchers found sophisticated marketing methods, such as cookies and advert-linked gaming, are being used by food websites to target children.

It stands to reason that if we want children to make healthy food choices, then we need to limit marketing that encourages them to do the exact opposite.

The consequences of letting this trend continue are frightening. A 2016 study assessing the rate of health dangers linked to obesity in young people found that 40 per cent of obese children and adolescents were at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in future.

That's a future we want to avoid at all costs.