A ''depressing lack'' of health prevention strategies in New
Zealand schools is causing irreparable damage to children's
bodies, which will cost taxpayers millions of dollars in the
years to come, a musculoskeletal specialist says.
However, the Otago Primary Principals' Association believes
it is a wider issue for communities to help tackle, not just
New Zealand Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine member
and physician Dr Steve Bentley said he was seeing more
children with postural problems, back pain, scoliosis,
developmental problems and lower limb alignment problems.
Children were spending much less time on social interaction
in sport and other physical activities, and more time at home
watching television, engaged in non-educational, antisocial
computer/phone activities, eating poorly, gaining weight and
establishing poor lifestyle habits, he said.
''The issue is the level of inactivity of children, the
growing problems of obesity and diabetes, which have a
profound influence on future health into adulthood and will
cost this country dearly as the medical budget blows out
dealing with the consequences of obesity, cardiovascular
disease, diabetes and its complications, as well as hip and
knee joint degeneration and joint replacement ... Back pain
is the most common cause of loss of time at work,'' he said.
''There is a depressing lack of health prevention strategies
in this country.''
Schools had a role to play in providing balanced education,
including physical education and activity as well as
providing nutritional food, Dr Bentley said.
The reintroduction of milk in schools was a great start, he
''Schools can achieve a lot by introducing physical skills
and interests, but also in specific prevention of disease,
for example osteoporosis.
''A simple jump/skipping programme has a profound effect on
bone mineral density during the period of maximum growth
velocity in puberty.
''Girls in a jump/skip programme during their period of peak
growth - 12 to 14 years - have been shown to increase their
total bone mineral content 17% more than inactive girls at
the end of their peak growth period, which has a huge impact
on preventing osteoporosis later in life and postmenopausal
fractures, especially hip fractures.
''Sadly, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education
are failing our children in the area of preventive health
There were still large numbers of children, especially from
sporting families in the deep south, who were very physically
active by participating in regular and competitive sport, Dr
''Those children's parents do a great job. We just need more
children and families to be involved.''
Otago Primary Principals Association president and Bathgate
Park School principal Whetu Cormick said teachers worked hard
to provide a balanced learning programme that included health
and physical education.
''Every day, in every New Zealand school, such programmes are
''To say that schools are failing our young people is
Obesity and other health-related problems were a wider issue
that the whole community needed to address, Mr Cormick said.
''Schools alone cannot be held responsible for overcoming
''Fruit, breakfast and milk in schools are fantastic
initiatives that will help our young people grow.''
A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said health and physical
education classes embodied the New Zealand curriculum's
vision for young people to develop the knowledge, values and
competencies to live full and active lives.
''It is about them taking responsibility for improving their
own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their communities.
''Learning in health education, physical education and home
economics helps students grow as confident, connected and
involved lifelong learners, ready to contribute to their
Pupils learnt that wellbeing was a combination of the
physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of
people's lives, she said.
''They learn to think critically and make meaning of the
world around them by exploring health-related and movement