Obesity

The Whanau Pakari 5-year outcome project: does a multi-disciplinary treatment for obese children and adolescents lead to long-term healthy lifestyle change?

Professor Paul Hofman
Liggins Institute, University of Auckland 

What is the problem and who does it affect?

Childhood obesity rates around the world represent a medical emergency. An estimated 85,000 children, aged 2-14 are obese nationally. The long-term implications of such figures are daunting, predisposing kids to a number of associated illnesses, including type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

The New Zealand Government have recognised this, and have made it one of their priorities for child health. It is generally acknowledged that a major issue is the lack of access to appropriate nutrition and physical activity programmes.

What is this project hoping to achieve?

Whānau Pakari, which means ‘healthy self-assured whānau that are fully active’, is a programme first implemented in 2012 to address the above challenges. It targets children and adolescents over-represented in the obesity figures; namely, Māori, and those in lower socioeconomic environments.

This is a 5-year follow up of a study investigating the effectiveness of the programme. The original project randomly assigned children and young people to one of two arms:  the first participating in weekly activity sessions for 12 months, with 6-monthly follow up assessment for 12 months; the second had 6-monthly follow-up assessments, but without the weekly activity sessions. Both groups showed a clinically relevant reduction in BMI, however, many issues associated with being obese were present.

This research is the first of its kind in its comprehensiveness and longevity. The collection of 5-year data on the intervention and control group is important in determining whether regular and customised activity and dietary advice can improve health outcomes for obese children.

This study has great potential to be translatable to other high-risk populations, and therefore it is critical that it continue for informative data to be captured.

It is hoped that Whānau Pakari will demonstrate real benefits and provide our tamariki with a better chance at a healthy life.