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Schools' role queried in obesity fight

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/11/2016

New Zealand is facing a child obesity epidemic but whether schools should be a battleground in the fight is being called into question.

The issue will be the focus of a panel discussion at Auckland University on Wednesday involving education and obesity experts.

Organisers note that Ministry of Health initiatives are increasingly calling for direct involvement from teachers in helping children maintain a healthy weight.

Schools are also implementing practices that include inspecting lunch boxes, banning cakes and running boot camps.

But there is growing opinion that school might not be the best place to focus the fight against fat.

Panel member and co-organiser Dr Darren Powell says there are a number of practices that are becoming normalised in schools due to fears about obesity.

"But there is a growing body of research that demonstrates fat-fighting in schools may do more harm than good to children's wellbeing," he said.

The discussion will led by Professor Jan Wright, from Wollongong University.

Dr Powell, lecturer at Auckland University's faculty of education and social work, expected that the discussion would challenge assumptions about the role of schools in fighting obesity.

He also expected it would contest the idea that it's better to do something than nothing and would point out new possibilities for teaching and learning about fatness, obesity and health.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons last week warned that projections showed almost one in three children in New Zealand will be considered overweight or obese by 2025.

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