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Hawke’s Bay Embracing Healthier Lifestyle

November 16, 2008

More Hawke’s Bay people are leading healthier lifestyles following efforts to raise awareness and promote opportunities for regular exercise.

In the most comprehensive undertaking of its kind to be carried out in the region, Active Hawke’s Bay tracked positive changes in the lifestyles and attitudes of residents through surveys carried out in 2006 and 2008.

Evaluated by Professor Bob Marshall PhD of EIT Hawke’s Bay’s Faculty of Health, Recreation and Sport, the project was primarily funded by Sport and Recreation New Zealand, with financial backing also coming from the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and EIT Hawke’s Bay.

Run from 2005 to 2008, Active Hawke’s Bay aimed to improve Hawke’s Bay lifestyles through programmes encompassing nutrition, physical activity and active transport.

Actions included:
. Distributing 12,000 brochures providing information about average energy expenditure and local features on walks in Wairoa, Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay. The maps are also available on Sport Hawke’s Bay’s website.
. Nine family walks organised by Sport Hawke’s Bay for its Stepping Out programme. More than 364 took part.
. For the Active Bike programme, Bike Hawke’s Bay organised guided rides over a six-month period for 514 mainly new cyclists in Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay.
. The Healthy HB programme organised six-month exercise and nutrition interventions – three run with Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and one with CIFICAP Trust. On one, the total weight loss for 76 participants was 294kg – an average of 3.9kg. On another, 62 people lost a total of 90kg, averaging 1.5kg per person.
. In a project evaluating road cycling and Rotary Pathway use, Napier City Council recorded 2800 cyclists at 10 sites on eight roads over four weeks. Hastings District Council counted 4990 cyclists at eight sites on eight roads over three weeks. Some 6000 people a week used sections of the Rotary Pathway in January 2006 and 2550 in July last year.

Two years after the first survey done in 2006, 10 percent more people said they were more regularly physically active. The number of Pacific Island people who were regularly physically active was up 25 percent – “a brilliant result,” said Professor Marshall.

Fourteen percent more Pacific people rated their health as good or excellent. However, 10 percent fewer Māori believed their health was excellent.

The number of smokers was down seven percent overall, and Māori smokers decreased 12 percent.

Three-quarters of respondents reported eating five or more fruit or vegetables at least five days a week, and nearly two-thirds had six servings of bread and/or cereals each day.

“With a margin of error of less than four percent, the number of people surveyed was big enough to be able to generalise the results to all of Hawke’s Bay,” Professor Marshall said.

Awareness of community walking and cycling paths was unchanged. Two percent more people walked to work two or more days a week, although the number cycling to work dropped from eight to four percent.

More young adults chose active means to get to work, however. In 2006, 82 percent of the 19-25 year age group never walked to work, but two years later that had dropped to 56 percent.

Likewise, Māori who said they never walked to work dropped from 84 to 70 percent and for Pacific people from 95 to 78 percent.

Professor Marshall said the two surveys provided basic data about physical activity, nutritional knowledge and practices and attitudes to active transport and lifestyle that would be useful to a wide variety of organisations and individuals.

“The results show a number of positive trends areas such as increased activity levels, reduction in the number of smokers and attitudes to active transport.

“While it is not possible to attribute these changes to any one programme or initiative, these results indicate health and lifestyle factors of Hawke’s Bay people are improving in a number of areas.

“In addition, a number of providers of exercise and nutrition programmes have developed skills and knowledge in the delivery of these to their Māori and Pacific target populations, with the result that their effectiveness should increase over time.”