New Programme pulls its weight on obesity

Whnau Pakari Q&A

Wellington, October 19, 2017

85,000 New Zealand children aged 2-14 years are currently affected by obesity about 4,500 in Taranaki (New Zealand Health Survey data).

What is Whnau Pakari?

Its an intervention programme for 5-16-year olds wanting to overcome weight issues, and uses a team of health professionals to support the child and whnau. The name means: Healthy self-assured whnau that are fully active.

What sort of support is provided to children and their whnau once they are on the programme?

One to one family support and group sessions

Physical fitness assessments and fun weekly physical activity sessions

Cooking sessions, virtual supermarket tours

Input from dietitian, psychologist and healthy lifestyles co-ordinator.

What does Whnau Pakari hope to achieve?

To educate and empower whnau to take control of their own lives. To enable whnau to make healthy lifestyle changes that will be sustainable once they have graduated from the programme. So far, we have seen increased participation across the Taranaki region, with many whnau successfully making changes.

Where is the programme being run?

The 12-month programme is run across Taranaki, with sessions held in Hawera and New Plymouth. Weve had over 650 referrals since January 2012, an overwhelming community response compared with most programmes being offered around the country.

What makes Whnau Pakari appeal?

It is community based the assessments happen in the home

It is accessible to all region-wide

It demedicalises obesity but medical support/overview remains

It targets Maori and Pacific peoples (but open to all)

It involves the whole whnau to support the child/teen

It is designed to answer whether the programme is effective, and better than what we have provided in the past.

How does the programme reach Maori tamariki and their whnau?

We use home visits to make the programme accessible across the province this has led to a 45% participation rate by Maori. The programme is supported by Maori health providers and stakeholders.

How do children/whnau get onto the Whnau Pakari programme?

Referrals can be made by general practitioners (GPs), practice nurses, paediatricians, public health nurses, kaiwhina, Mori health workers, Whnau Ora navigators, other Mori health providers, B4 school checks co-ordinators, dietitians, well child services and youth workers. We also take self-referrals.

Programme details

Why was Whnau Pakari developed?

There was no comprehensive obesity service for young people in the region, and this programme is a collaboration between Sport Taranaki and the Taranaki District Health Board. The Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland supports the research associated with the programme so we can share what we learn with others.

The Whnau Pakari team

Dr Yvonne Anderson (paediatrician/clinical researcher),

Lisa Wynter (healthy lifestyles co-ordinator),

Michelle Butler (healthy lifestyles co-ordinator),

Niamh OSullivan (dietitian/health research assistant),

Kayla Jones (health development/physical activity advisor),

Dr Kate Treves (clinical psychologist),

Tami Cave (kai rangahau tautoko – research assistant),

Cervante Wild (research assistant support).

The research activity associated with the programme is funded byHealth Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), Taranaki Medical Foundation, Lotteries Health Research, Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, Curekids, and A Better Start/National Science Challenge.

What are the potential impacts of this intervention?

It is well positioned to inform the Ministry of Health with information about child and adolescent obesity intervention.

Whnau Pakari is the most comprehensive programme for children with obesity in New Zealand; therefore, the programme will provide unique and valuable health research knowledge around childhood obesity and cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes.

Does Whnau Pakari work?

We have achieved increased referrals and increased participation by Mori. 12-month outcome data from the clinical trial show that those that engage experience, on average, modest reductions in weight status by 12 months, but also sustained improvements in cardiovascular fitness and quality of life. For those that attend more than 70% of the high intensity sessions, the reductions in weight status are doubled.

For those interested in finding out more about Whnau Pakari, who should they contact?

For referrals, please email Lisa Wynter (healthy lifestyles co-ordinator) on whanaupakari or phone on: (06) 753 6139 Extn 8729, mobile: 027 910 7253 There is also information available on Whnau Pakari on the Sport Taranaki website at

Obesity is everyones problem; we all need to be part of the solution.


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