Scale of childhood obesity revealed in a new global study

The scale of childhood obesity across the world has been revealed in a new global study, which found one in five children are now overweight or obese.

The global study by China's Sichuan University found rates of obesity have climbed drastically over the last 10 years - along with a worrying prediction that by 2025, around 206 million children will be obese.

New Zealand has the third-highest rate of obesity in the OECD and the second-highest childhood obesity rate.

"It's a really bad problem," said dietitian Mafi Funaki-Tahifote.

Childhood obesity expert Professor Rachael Taylor said those issues carry on into adulthood, leading to chronic health conditions.

"It's the increased risk of other issues," she said.

"Joint issues, there can be self-esteem issues and also of course the increasing risk of type 2 diabetes."

A Massey University research programme is trying to do something about it and specifically reduce rates of obesity in Pacific families. Nearly 28 percent of Pasifika children are classified as obese.

"We really wanted to get down to the grassroots level and hear what they are experiencing," said project manager Ngaire Lerwill.

Part of the programme involved trialling a healthy food box, along the lines of 'My Food Bag'.

"We made sure the recipes were familiar to the families and easy to prepare," said researcher Layla Latu.

"And encouraged them to include the children in the meal-making process."

While the results haven't been published, Latu said it showed promising signs.

Funaki-Tahifote said for the issue to really be solved, it needs greater government intervention to prohibit advertising sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.

"Especially around sports events and on their way to school, or even going to church on Sundays for our Pacific children, there's lots of advertising."