The Nourishing HB project recognises the link between nutrition and overall wellbeing including children’s mental, physical and oral health. It is part of the National Science Challenge “A Better Start” one of the 11 Challenges funded by MBIE to tackle the biggest science-based issues and opportunities facing New Zealand.
He wairua tō te kai – the guiding principle for this initiative – considers the wider values around food and eating, be they spiritual, cultural, relational or environmental. These values may provide future guidance for the Hawke’s Bay community around sustainable food-related behaviours.
This coordinated approach is unique in that it will combine Mātauranga Māori methods with a systems science framework, building upon the input of local communities. “This is a novel approach. The goal is that communities come up with the problem as well as ideas to take action. The communities own this project, not the researchers,” explains Pippa McKelvie-Sebileau, one of the EIT researchers.
“The latest UNICEF report showed that New Zealand has the second highest childhood obesity rate in the OECD. In addition, the latest B4 School Check data showed pre-schooler obesity was rising at 2.5% per year in Napier. These figures motivated us to look more closely into the problem, extending insights and to try to come up with initiatives of intervening,” says Pippa.
According to the Ministry of Health there is evidence that obese children and adults are at greater risk of short-term and long-term health consequences.
EIT Research lead, Professor David Tipene-Leach says, “The answers are likely to be found in two places – one is around the obesogenic environment that we put up with in New Zealand – particularly in poorer communities and the other is in finding ways that engage Māori and Pacific parents and children in programmes of change.”
Through a series of community engagement workshops the team will investigate the underlying drivers of poor nutrition and the vagaries of dysfunctional food environments in the “fruit bowl of New Zealand”.
The researchers will engage traditional stakeholders like the DHB, the Ministry of Education, iwi and councils, but also students, parents, and community health interventions groups.
Written and released by Kathrin Siller.