Obesity declining amongst New Zealand's 4yos - Otago University

According to an Otago University study, obesity amongst New Zealand's four-year-olds is declining - but one in three children are still considered overweight or obese.

We learn a lot in our early years including good habits and new research shows there's one that seems to have stuck.

"We found that there was a declining trend in the prevalence of obesity among New Zealand four-year-old children," researcher Lisa Daniels told Newshub.

The Otago University study analysed data from the Ministry of Health Before School Check.

It's the second study of its kind in which just under 440,000 children's records were analysed.

Daniels said the decline in the four-year-old demographic has shown up throughout the young children as a whole.

"We actually saw the declines across all sociodemographic indicators as well as overall so we're seeing it across all ethnicities and we're seeing it in children living in the most deprived areas and the least deprived areas."

It's unclear what's causing the decline but it could be due to several factors including better education, public health initiatives, and decreasing unemployment rates.

Justine Camp from the Māori Lead Obesity Team said communities are coming together and starting to look after their health properly.

"What we see in local neighbourhoods is communities are starting to come together for their own health and well-being like community gardens so we're hoping a lot of that is actually being driven from the communities themselves."

Camp thinks it's good news but more still needs to be done.

"I think we need to dive deeper and look at community levels even looking amongst whānau themselves to look at what they're doing," Camp told Newshub.

Daniels said preventing obesity when children are young is critical.

"The earlier years are a really crucial point in terms of obesity prevention so we want to prevent obesity in early years so it doesn't persist into adulthood."

Children under four are currently understudied and those early years could hold the key to prevention.