2 Oct 2012

Pacific churches urged to help fight region's obesity epidemic

7:46 pm on 2 October 2012

A professor of population nutrition and global health, Boyd Swinburn, says churches are among those best placed to combat obesity among Pacific Island young people.

Professor Swinburn led a three year intervention programme for Australia's Deakin University to prevent obesity among adolescents in Tonga, Fiji, Australia and South Auckland.

He found the socio-cultural role of food had the biggest influence on obesity among Pacific Island communities studied.

Professor Swinburn suggests churches' strong role in those communities could help change habits.

"This is about the use of large volumes of food to be able to show and manifest positive underlying socio-cultural factors like loving, like caring, sharing, respect, status; that's a problem."

Professor Swinburn says obesity programmes in the Pacific need to be stepped up substantially to deal with the region's obesity epidemic.