Pasifika children in Auckland at higher risk of diabetes

According to new research Pasifika children in Auckland have an 18 times greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than their European peers. Check out some tried and true tips to fighting obesity in order to prevent type 2 diabetes.



Published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, RNZ reports the research canvassed 21 years of childhood diabetes cases at Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital - which covers the whole region.


The study's lead author, Starship paediatric endocrinologist Craig Jeffries, said the research had revealed that type 2 diabetes - barely recorded in children 20 years ago - was persistent and rising.


Dr Jeffries said the chance was greater for Pasifika children for a variety of reasons.


"We have this overwhelming obesity drive in New Zealand and a lot of other countries do, but you've still got to be a relatively specific ethnic group and within that you still have to have normally a strong family history of type-2 diabetes.


"In almost all the kids we see, they've got parents, or especially a mother who got type-2 diabetes on insulin in pregnancy. So it's almost like they're programmed metabolically ahead of time."


Craig Jeffries said, however, cases were still very rare.


Paediatrician for the Waitemata District Health Board Dr Seinafolava Meia Schmidt-Uili in Issue 9 of Pacific Peoples Health admitted he was treating an increasing number of obese Pacific children.


“Some of the children I see every day are already showing signs of insulin resistance at age 11 or 12 years old, which is indicative of heading towards type 2 diabetes.


“The signs include acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition characterised by abnormally increased colouring (including hyperpigmentation) and thickening of the skin, particularly in skin-folds. “


In light of the new research we reshare some of Dr Meia’s solutions to combat obesity that leads to type 2 diabetes in our Pasifika children below.


And make sure to catch his latest column in the next issue of SPASIFIK Magazine, out soon.





The most important meal of the day is breakfast, which should include complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. The types of food include oatmeal, eggs, nuts, fruit, vegetables, milk, yoghurt or cheese. These are great foods as they maintain good blood sugar levels for several hours. This usually means up to lunchtime. A good balanced breakfast helps with the child’s performance and concentration during morning activities.


Sugary cereals may give an immediate burst of energy, but after 1-2 hours the blood sugar drops, making the child sleepy, inattentive and irritable.




Ask your child ‘What do you want to do in life? Do you have any goals?’ Goals help children develop their life skills, encourages a can-do attitude and behaviour, and grow in confidence, while learning how to work towards achieving their goal.
Keep the goals simple, specific, achievable and with a deadline.


We wrote a plan for one child, which included doing 20 jumping squats each morning, a 30-minute walk with his parents three times a week, and having a big breakfast (Weetbix with fruit, which he chose) each day. He and his parents would review his goals at the end of the week. We started these small steps so that he could achieve his goal and remain motivated, which he did. He was able to increase his exercises the following week.


It’s really important the parents help guide the child in their planning towards their goal.


Family goal-setting is also great and involving the child in making some decisions is important. Family goals could be for the family to go for a 30-minute walk after dinner every night and to have meals together on the dining table during the weekdays.




Achieving an ambitious goal usually requires setting small goals as part of the pathway. A goal that appears too daunting can discourage you from even starting. Break it down and do it step by step.




We consume sugar-rich food and drink that quickly hypes us up before quickly crashing us down - they tire us easily. Porridge is an excellent breakfast to start the day – it helps lower cholesterol absorption, is a great source of fibre and provides substantial and sustained low energy density. It’s that Eveready battery that keeps you going! Helping the kids understand the good fuels (oatmeal, wholegrain bread, beans, lean meat, eggs, spaghetti and fruit) that help them run faster, longer, be smarter and stronger empowers them to make good choices.




There’s so much sugar and salt in processed foods. We say kids naturally have a sweet tooth, but I’ve seen them adapt to having less sugar on a gradual level. With healthy food like porridge (made from rolled oats) we control the amount of sugar we put on. Throw in some bananas instead of adding refined sugar. The same goes with our drinks – if it’s fruit juice, water it down.




I totally understand when parents, who work two jobs each and have lots of kids, say that they don‘t have the time to prepare good, healthy food. But it’s unrealistic to expect your child to be healthy if you’re not. Learning how to eat and drink healthy could start simply with helping kids make smoothies from fresh fruit and vegetables. Encourage the kids to do some cooking at home. It’s a great way for them to learn about food. They’ll probably make a mess of it at first, but give them time and let them experiment. Be patient.




While it’s often said Pacific people love and thrive in a team environment, that’s not always the case. My 12-year-old son enjoys training at a gym. He gets cardio-vascular exercise by walking or running on a treadmill, venting his aggression on a punching bag, using a rowing machine or an exercise bike. And there’s supervision if he’s feeling ambitious with lifting weights. Gyms provide the facilities and equipment for all-round fitness and wellbeing. It’s also an opportunity for the parent and child to do things together. Check out your nearest gym and see if they can accommodate your child.




There will be moments when kids will over-indulge. They’ll naturally think that it has all been in vain. But it’s not if they’re encouraged to get back onto a healthy track. A new day will dawn meaning a new start. The quicker they bounce back the longer they’ll want to stay healthy. Why? Because being healthy feels better.