Wellington, Oct 18 NZPA
The Government’s focus on tackling obesity by managing the weight of individuals is too narrow, and more attention needs to be paid to prevention and environmental factors, a national Maori health organisation says.
Community and family support were important for people trying to adopt healthy eating and exercise, research showed, and it was particularly important for Maori.
Only about 20 percent of Maori were within a healthy weight range, resulting in high rates of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and gout among Maori, said Te Hotu Manawa Maori nutrition manager Leonie Matoe.
“There are currently no Maori models of weight management. We believe that working with Maori communities to develop new approaches is key,” Ms Matoe told the public health seminar ‘Who Cares About NZ’s Waistlines’ in Wellington today.
Ministry of Health weight management guidelines focused on health professionals, such as doctors, seeing overweight and obese people with health problems. However, often doctors did not know about community programmes targeting obesity.
“While we agree that these people need help and support to lose weight, the guidelines focus too heavily on the individual’s treatment,” she said.
“We believe that the same amount of energy needs to go on prevention initiatives.
“In other words we need to invest in communities and support them to develop their own initiatives that educate, inspire and inform New Zealanders about what constitutes a healthy diet — and the importance of exercise in maintaining optimal health.”
Te Hotu Manawa Maori was developing a Maori weight management model with Maori health consultancy Te Hiringa, focusing on food, activity and behaviour.
“The model we are developing looks at nutrition and exercise through the eyes of our tupuna (ancestors), and takes account of the complexities of contemporary Maori living.
“Our tupuna understood the value of food and exercise which was linked to the gods. Maori need to see themselves in this picture and be inspired to make lifestyle changes,” she said.
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