Obesity in New Zealand may be connected with negative effects on oral health

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Obesity in New Zealand may be connected with negative effects on oral health

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The obesity rate in New Zealand is one of the highest in the world. Caused in part by the over-consumption of sugary food and drinks, the oral health of children, particularly in the region of Taranaki is now being affected. (Photograph: Tortoon/Shutterstock)

Wed. 25. April 2018

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NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand: With its good weather and outdoor-focused style of life, it seems unexpected that obesity would be an issue in New Zealand. However, the idyllic country in fact has the third-highest obesity rate per capita for adults and children among the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, behind the US and Mexico. With the over-consumption of sugary food and drinks a major cause, this is also having an impact on oral health.

New Zealand has around 3,500 fast-food outlets throughout the entire country—which is about one for every 1,300 inhabitants. According to reports, the North Island region of Taranaki has the second-highest number of children with obesity in the county, with almost 20 per cent of the child population affected.

Speaking to the Taranaki Daily News, Taranaki-based paediatrician Dr Yvonne Anderson said, “Nationally, 99,000 children are affected. By the age of five Taranaki children have, on average, 1.6 teeth which are decayed, missing or have a filling. These alarming statistics need to be addressed by a positive, collaborative community-led initiative.”

A leader in the initiative to combat the concerning figures is Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa. Founded in 1996, the organisation’s aim is to have everyone in New Zealand eating well and leading an active life. By providing forums throughout New Zealand, Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa aims to bring people together to address things such as food and the environment and how to incorporate all of it into a healthy lifestyle.

While the grassroots initiative to help people understand the environment around them and that what they eat can have a negative effect on their lives and health is crucial, greater action also needs to be taken at a national level. As reported in the Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand Dental Association spokesman Dr Rob Beaglehole said the organisation wanted a tax on sugary drinks.  Beaglehole went on to say that he would also like to see Minister of Education Chris Hipkins show leadership by adopting a policy of no junk food or sugary drinks being sold or provided in schools. He explained, “It doesn’t make sense for schools to be selling sickness on their property."

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