1.0 Executive summary

This report provides consumer input to a larger project being completed by the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) in order to examine whether or not the public service is effectively working towards preventing and reducing obesity to improve children’s health now and into the future.

This report provides commentary based on four focus groups conducted in Auckland between the 25th and 28th of February 2013, with Māori and Pasifika parents of children aged 5 to 14 years of age.

Key findings – What did the research tell us?

There are four key findings:

1. Child obesity is widely recognised as an issue affecting the health and wellbeing of many children in New Zealand, particularly those in Māori, Pasifika, low-income and urban households.

Child obesity is of particular concern to Pasifika parents. The Pasifika parents we spoke to were much more likely to say that obesity (in general) was an issue within their own immediate family than were the Māori parents we spoke to.

Māori parents believe child obesity is mainly related to poverty, with many unable to afford to buy healthy, nutritious food for their families. 

The cost and convenience of low quality foods and the over-abundance of take-away outlets in urban areas were also identified by Māori parents as contributing factors, as was a general lack of physical activity. 

Although Pasifika parents also mentioned the same factors, the main issue for them was a cultural one, in which food and eating to excess plays an integral part. Pasifika people have also historically viewed big babies and children as a sign of health, strength and the children being well-cared for.

However, having attended funerals of people who had died due to obesity-related illnesses, Māori and Pasifika parents are very aware of the health implications of child obesity.

Despite this, the Māori and Pasifika parents we spoke to said they would not become concerned about a child’s weight unless there were signs that it was affecting the child’s physical or mental state.

2. The awareness of services and programmes varies.
The Māori parents we spoke to (from the Orakei and Waitemata areas) were not aware of any services or programmes in their communities that are available to improve health issues related to child obesity.

In contrast, the Pasifika parents we spoke to (all of whom were from South Auckland), were aware of many such programmes.

3. A number of barriers were seen to inhibit access and on-going participation in these types of services and programmes.

These include:

  • Low awareness of the programmes and services available.
  • Financial cost of attending programmes and services.
  • Apathy or a lack of motivation in attending obesity-related programmes and services.
  • Not being able to connect with the service provider because they are not from the local area, are not of the same ethnicity, or because they lack the enthusiasm or ability to keep participants motivated and engaged.

4. Where programmes and services have been accessed, participants are generally satisfied with the standard of service provided.

The types of programmes considered most successful were those that:

  • Involved the whole family (i.e. parent(s) and children together).
  • Involved a combination of physical activity and practical advice/information about nutrition and how to prepare healthy (and appealing) meals.
  • Involved more than one session per week.
  • Involved on-going support and encouragement between sessions (via phone calls or text messages).
  • Were run by professionals with ties to the local community.
  • Were provided free of charge.