Why are Kiwis third fattest in OECD?

I was surprised to read this in the Herald week that Kiwis are ranked third fattest in the OECD.title=”fat kiwi” src=”http://blog.euroasia.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/fat-kiwi-300209.jpg” alt=”fat kiwi” width=”300″ height=”209″ />The article goes on to say:

The obesity rate among adults in New Zealand in 2007 was 26.5 per cent. This compared with figures reported the previous year by the United States generic cialis viagra at 34.3 per cent and Mexico at 30 per cent.

“Given the time lag between the onset of obesity and related health problems (such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma), the growing prevalence of obesity in most OECD countries, including New Zealand, may well lead to higher healthcare costs in the future,” the report said.

The Green Party’s health spokeswoman, Sue Kedgley, said the OECD report “highlights the stupidity of the Government’s move to slash funding for public health initiatives aimed at preventing obesity”.

The article goes on to list a number of initiatives that the government has cut in this year’s budget.

I decided to look further into this as I just couldn’t believe that we given how healthy and fit ordinary Kiwis are, that the obesity rate would be so high. The majority of Kiwis I know are active and outdoorsy.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this Ministry of Social Development report which breaks down obesity levels by age and ethnicity.

I think this chart paints the picture well:

Obesity by ethnicity – Social Report 2008. Source: MOH,MSD

The 2008 Social Report concludes:

There are large differences in the prevalence of obesity by ethnicity. Among the population aged 15 years and over in 2006/2007, Pacific peoples (65 percent) and Māori (43 percent) had significantly higher age-standardised obesity rates than the total population in this age group, while Asians (12 percent) had a significantly lower rate.

This is shocking. Two-thirds of Pacific Islanders obese! Islanders are 3 times more likely than the average Kiwi and more than 5 times more likely than an Asian to be obese. Almost half of Maori are obese.

The obesity rate of European/Other was (23 percent). For Māori, there was no significant change from 1997 to 2006/2007 in the prevalence of obesity, adjusted for age, either for men or for women. Between 2002/2003 and 2006/2007, only Asians had a statistically significant increase in obesity.

And why the heck are Asians getting fatter? Although “only” 12% of Asians are obese (half the national average), this has doubled in the last decade.

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I wonder why the Herald didn’t cover this angle. I’m sure like me, most Kiwis won’t believe that as a nation, New Zealand is so high up the “fatty rankings”. Could it be that it’s not very PC to say that a small number of people skew the rankings dramatically?

That reminds me, I haven’t gone to the gym for a week…

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Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.

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