10 Apr 2016

Auckland's 'intractable health crisis'

9:23 am on 10 April 2016

A group set up to look at Auckland's environment has declared the city is facing an unimaginable health crisis, with more than two-thirds of adults overweight or obese.

junk food

Healthy Auckland Together's report found there were distinct concentrations of fast food outlets in poorer communities in Auckland. Photo: 123rf

Healthy Auckland Together is made up of agencies like the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Ministry of Health, iwi and other organisations.

A report from the group has found there are distinct concentrations of fast food outlets in poorer communities, a drop in fruit and vegetables being eaten, and high levels of filled, missing and decaying teeth in children.

Findings also include:

  • a drop off in the number of adults who report they are active for 150 minutes a week
  • consistent growth in the patronage of public transport, up to 8.4 percent
  • an average of 2.5 fast food premises within 10 minutes walk of a primary, intermediate or secondary school
  • about 95 percent of people in the poorest areas have more fast food outlets than supermarkets or fruit and vegetable grocers within a 10 minute drive.

The report describes a "wretched food environment" for many Aucklanders, with a saturation of cheap and low quality food and fewer healthier choices on offer in some suburbs.

Obesity has dropped slightly in Pacific Island children, by 2.5 percentage points for boys under five years of age and 1.4 percentage points for girls in the same age bracket.

But the drop in the percentage of obese children in Pacific communities was offset by a rise in the percentage of Pacific children classed as overweight.

The group has warned it will take investment in infrastructure and more people on the streets before there is broader physical activity in Auckland, despite a small rise in people walking and cycling to work.

Healthy Auckland Together spokesman Michael Hale said the report showed mixed results.

"Nutrition and physical indicators are heading in the wrong direction and the whole way we live, work and play has shifted to make people less active and eat more poorly.

"We really need a whole-of-society response to turn that around," he said.

Dr Hale said Auckland had an "intractable health crisis" with over two thirds of adults and a third of children in the country's biggest city classed as overweight or obese.

However, the report called the rise in public transport use significant, and said such a rise usually increases people walking to and from bus stops and train stations.

New data in the report has also cast an eye over which suburbs have the best layouts and destinations to encourage walking.

The information found the central business district and inner city fringes were Auckland's "most walkable" areas, but that collaboration is needed to improve infrastructure and safety in other suburbs.