The Government is planning to gather annual data on how many kids guzzle fizzy drinks, eat fast food, ride or walk to school - even how much screen time they're getting.

It's part of a push to start setting targets to measure whether the Government is making progress on cutting childhood obesity.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said a set of 15 indicators would be published annually to help monitor progress on the Government's Childhood Obesity Plan, published in 2015. The first report of the new indicators will be released in 2018.

It comes hot on the heels of University of Otago research that found being overweight or obese at the age of 3 was linked to a higher risk of heart disease in middle-age.


"Obesity is a serious issue threatening the health of young New Zealanders, which means some of our kids could end up living shorter lives than their parents," Coleman said.

The Government's plan outline says kids' consumption of "energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and sugar-sweetened beverages" should be cut, as such foods "have little or no nutritional value, and are key drivers of childhood obesity".

"Creating environments that support children to eat well and be more physically active is important for reducing rates of childhood obesity," it adds.

"We can do this by developing policies and interventions that influence how we market, label and subsidise foods and beverages for children, and by supporting policies and projects that make the built environment more activity friendly."

The increased focus on the food environment has been welcomed by Dr Robyn Toomath, clinical director of general medicine at Auckland Hospital and founder of Fight against the Obesity Epidemic.

She has been a vocal critic of the Government's obesity plan, which she felt focused on "stigmatising" obese kids instead of creating a more health-promoting environment.

Toomath last night congratulated the Government on expanding its range of measurements, which would "potentially be extremely useful".

"It's incredibly important that we have good baseline data so we can track progress, or the lack of it, over time," she said.

"But this of course will not in any way influence the prevalence of obesity - in order to actually change the data we have to move on to introduce policies which affect nutrition in particular, and physical activity."


Top of Toomath's wishlist is a sugar tax, followed by removing advertising of junk food on TV before 9pm.

The IndicatorsMore children are physically active: · Time spent watching TV, videos or screens · Sleep duration · Time spent on physical activityMore children eat well: · Breastfeeding rates · Consumption of fast food · Consumption of sugary drinks · Fruit and vegetable intakeChildren's environments support physical activity & healthy eating:· Awareness of the Health Star Rating system · Active transport to and from school · Use of a bicycle · Water-only policies in schoolsMore children have improved health outcomes: · Body Mass Index · Gestational diabetes · Raising Healthy Kids health target · Birth weight