Whānau Pakari

Understanding barriers to engagement, participation and retention in obesity intervention for children and adolescents

Dr Yvonne Anderson
University of Auckland 

In 2017, Cure Kids collaborated on a joint, contestable funding round with The National Science Challenge, A Better Start. The aim of the partnership was to fund high-quality, mission-led research focused on child and youth well-being, specifically in the areas of childhood obesity, early literacy and learning, mental health problems, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In July, 2017, ten projects were funded across the four specific areas.

What is the problem and who does it affect?

Whānau Pakari is a multi-disciplinary intervention programme for children and adolescents with obesity. It commenced in 2012 in Taranaki, aiming to be an effective obesity intervention service, especially for Māori and those living in more deprived households in Taranaki. Whānau Pakari means “healthy self-assured whānau that are fully active”. The whānau-centred service assesses individuals alongside whānau in their homes, therefore “demedicalising” care, and removing the need for hospital visits. A randomised clinical trial, embedded in the service, showed that Whānau Pakari increased reach, with equal engagement of Māori compared with NZE (both comprising 45% of trial participants), and with 29% of participants from the most deprived household quintile.


What does this project hope to achieve?

The proposed project will identify barriers to engagement and retention, and is a critical progression of the work to date. We will attempt to survey all those referred to Whānau Pakari to understand barriers to engagement, and conduct 80 home-based interviews with those that did not engage with the programme and those who engaged highly. This project will be a collaboration between Māori health researchers and western science, and Māori facilitation in interviews will be a key aspect of study design. Barriers to accessing childhood obesity services for at-risk groups must be identified in order to address health inequity and improve care provided moving forward. This project will assist in determining better ways to manage obesity in New Zealand children and young people, and inform future multi-disciplinary intervention programmes.