New sports facility aims to tackle Hawke's Bay obesity

Health officials hope a new sport and wellbeing facility planned for Hawke's Bay will make a big dent in the region's obesity figures.

Construction on a scaled-down version of Auckland's AUT Millenium Institute is expected to get underway this year.

Sir Graham Avery is one of those behind the original concept, and is now eyeing up a similar facility just outside of Hastings.

He says as well as catering for high performance athletes and the general public, it will have a special focus on young people from low socio-economic areas.

The focus will be on "healthy eating, cooking, food shopping and active recreation," he says.

"Then similar programmes in schools who wish to collaborate in [those] programmes."

At Hawke's Bay's Flaxmere Primary School, health and wellbeing is already a part of the curriculum.

"We have fruit during the day, we have milk during the day. We have our kids out at least once or twice during the day," says principal Robyn Isaacson.

The decile one school takes children from new entrant level right up to year eight.

Researchers say that is a critical time to set up healthy eating and physical activity behaviours for life.

"What our paediatricians are telling us is that's a really important age group for us to intervene, so that you don't get the problems that can happen in later adulthood," says Hawke's Bay District Health Board's Caroline McElnay.

One of the biggest problems is obesity, and in Hawke's Bay it's particularly prevalent among Maori and Pasifika people.

The Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre promises world class sporting facilities including an Olympic sized swimming pool, research labs, gymnasiums and a recreation hall.

Hawke's Bay DHB hopes to feed some of its research into the programmes being provided.

"The health service can't do it on its own, that's where you really need the whole community to come together. The Millennium Trust provides another opportunity," says Ms McElnay.

Construction is expected to begin in the coming months.