Healthy Weight

Starting early is the way to respond to the obesity epidemic.
Team Snapshots

Healthy Weight explained

Not having a healthy weight is the most important factor leading to the burden of disease as an adult. With one in three New Zealand children overweight or obese, the earlier we intervene and ensure children have a healthy weight, the better their long-term health and wellbeing.

Our approach:

  • Investigates the prevalence of obesity.
  • Develops an obesity prediction model.
  • Investigates how a prediction model might be accepted and acted upon by diverse New Zealand communities, with a focus on Māori and Pacific families and children.

What we are doing

  • With the Big Data group, a paper has been published showing an across the board decline in obesity in New Zealand 4-year-olds.
  • Data from more than 18 focus groups, with an emphasis on Maori and Pacific communities, will investigate the views of parents and grandparents on what comprises a healthy and an unhealthy weight in children. Most parents (>80%) of overweight and obese children do not see their child’s weight as a health issue.
  • A clinical trial is underway to investigate whether encapsulated gut microbiome from healthy lean ‘super donors’ can effectively treat severe adolescent obesity.

Team Snapshot

Professor Rachael Taylor

Professor Rachael Taylor

Karitane Fellow in Early Childhood Obesity, Otago University

Professor Rachael Taylor leads the Healthy Weight theme for A Better Start. Her areas of interest include determining how body weight is affected by sleep, diet and physical activity, particularly in childhood. Her current research includes work focused on sleep, feeding and infants, play, and prevention of overweight in infants.

Dr Karen Leong

Dr Karen Leong

Dr Leong is a paediatrician from Malaysia and has recently completed her fellowship in Paediatric Endocrinology. She is enrolled as a PhD student in Biomedical Science at the Liggins Institute and is working as a clinical research fellow under the supervision of Professor Wayne Cutfield. She is currently studying the association between the usage of antibiotics in mothers during pregnancy, and in children in early life, on the development of obesity in later childhood. She is also part of the ‘Gut Bugs Trial’, a clinical study involving assessments and treatment of obese adolescents with gut bacteria and examining the effects of this treatment on their weight and metabolism.


Farewell to our Board Chair, Pat Snedden

Farewell to our Board Chair, Pat Snedden

After almost six years Pat Snedden has stepped down as the Chair of A Better Start E Tipu E Rea National Science Challenge. Pat’s influence on the Challenge and it’s direction has been enormous and we are hugely thankful to him for this. Pat’s commitments have grown...

Bigger babies at risk of obesity in adulthood: study

Bigger babies at risk of obesity in adulthood: study

Big, ‘bonny’ babies are traditionally celebrated as pictures of health, but a new international study shows women born heavy were on average nearly 4kg heavier by their mid-twenties, when they were also 50 percent more likely to develop obesity. The study, an...

Related research

See how they grow

An interactive growth chart accessed via a smartphone app will give parents and caregivers data on their child’s eating, activity, sleeping, and growth.

Principal investigator: Gayl Humphrey, University of Auckland

Systems Science to prevent obesity

Often used in fields like engineering, systems science is a broad class of analytical approaches used to uncover the behaviour of complex systems through mapping and analysis of the interplay and feedback loops. The approach will be used in partnership with four schools in Papakura to test the impact of public health obesity prevention techniques.

Principal investigator: Boyd Swinburne, University of Auckland

Can Omega 3 supplements during pregnancy reduce child obesity?

Omega-3 oils given to obese pregnant rats reduces obesity in their offspring. The trial will recruit 160 pregnant women to investigate the impact of Omega-3 oils on child obesity.

Principal investigator: Ben Albert, Liggins Institute

Growing up in NZ and Australia

Many well-meaning interventions to prevent obesity fail. This research will model data from two major longitudinal studies, Growing up in NZ and Growing up in Australia to test how modifying different factors, e.g. sleep and activity, might work to help children maintain a healthy weight.

Principal investigator: Melissa Wake, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne

Whānau Pakiri

The whānau-centred service assesses individuals alongside family in their homes to “demedicalise” care, and reduce the need for hospital visits in Taranaki. Research will look at the optimum ways to increase engagement and retention.

Principal investigator: Yvonne Anderson, Taranaki DHB