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Rates of obesity in B4 School Checks continue to decrease

Thursday 31 March 2022 11:27am

Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR) members have recently published a study in the International Journal of Obesity, showing that the rates of 4 year-olds presenting with obesity are continuing to decrease in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Measurements of over 400,000 children at their B4 school check (age 4yrs) were taken between 2011 and 2019. In this time, the percentage of children that fell into the overweight, obesity and extreme obesity categories decreased from 34.3% to 29.4%.

Importantly, the researchers found that the decreasing rates of overweight and obesity were across all ethnicities including Māori and Pasifika. There also appeared to be a “closing of the gap” between the most deprived and least deprived communities, with a larger decrease in the rates of overweight and obesity in children from highly deprived areas in New Zealand.

EDOR researcher Dr Lisa Daniels, lead author on the paper, says the findings are promising but there is still work to do:

"While we are seeing these reassuring declining trends in this group, there are still a large proportion of children with high BMI (overweight and obesity). We now need to see what is happening with our younger tamariki (<4 years of age), where there is currently a lack of national data."

Although the study did not look into the reasons for the decrease in the rate of overweight and obesity, Daniels noted that there were several possibilities. These included a "reduction in maternal smoking during pregnancy, affordable access to early childhood education for 3-4 year olds where the curriculum has a focus on nutrition and physical activity, and potentially more awareness and a change in attitude regarding obesity prevention in the population."

This research was conducted for A Better Start National Science Challenge, supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Read the research article

Further reductions in the prevalence of obesity in 4-year-old New Zealand children from 2017 to 2019. Daniels, L., Taylor, B.J., Taylor, R.W., Milne, B.J., Camp, J., Richards, R., Shackleton, N., Feb 2022. International Journal of Obesity.

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EDOR members involved in this study

Find out more about EDOR's obesity research