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Our vision: Lower Hutt – NZ’s healthiest people

Turning the Tide for Tamariki in Naenae

On any given day, our tamariki make many choices. The environments they live, learn, eat and play in have a critical role in whether these choices support their health and wellbeing. What can our communities do to make the healthy choice the easy choice?

Local community champions in the suburb of Naenae in Lower Hutt, supported by Healthy Families Lower Hutt have decided to take action to Turn the Tide so that the youngest members of our whānau grow up in an environment that supports them to thrive and reach their potential.

Naenae is popular with young families, with tamariki under five being the largest age group across the suburb’s population.  It is also one of Lower Hutt’s communities that experiences high levels of deprivation. We know from our health data that deprivation increases the risk of obesity and preventable chronic disease. It is our children that are impacted the most by this, as children living in the most deprived areas are 2.5 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas, compared to adults who are 1.5 times as likely.

The desire to create a healthier place for our tamariki to grow up in has led to 10 organisations across Naenae to sign up to Turning the Tide, a social movement to create more health promoting environments. Together they are creating ripples of action especially around choosing water as the drink of choice.

In Naenae this means three primary schools, the local college, medical centre, library, swimming pool, cricket club, Tokelau Hutt Valley Sport and Cultural Association as well as the clubhouse for rangatahi have all committed to take action so that water is the drink of choice.  Many are also increasing access to healthy kai and encouraging their community to be active.

The impact of these changes might seem small, but once we consider these organisations’ reach of approximately 5,000 members or students in addition to the over 620,000 visits to the Council pool and library each year it adds up. Small actions to change the environments we spend our time in are making a big difference to a large number of people within our community. 

David Appleyard Rata St Water TTT story crop

Principal of Rata Street School, Dave Appleyard says “schools are in a unique position to not only make changes that have an immediate impact on children’s health but we can also influence their attitude and their understanding of why - this has a longer term benefit. 

Going ‘water only’ was one of the easiest school changes to implement. Parents and children were supportive right from the get go. When I announced at the school assembly that the next disco was water only and that we were giving away free water – the children cheered! Free water – it was like I’d just offered an amazing treat.”

Tokelau Hutt Valley Sport and Cultural Association (Marlins) have been leading the way for many years with their stance on providing healthy kai and water only at their events. President Ake Pereira says “We’re proud that when our members, from our matua (Mothers) to our youngest children, come to our events they know to expect healthy kai and water only. Members can play multiple sports for Marlins or take part in free quality fitness and cultural dance ‘Akoga Hiva’ to stay active”.

When Naenae Cricket Club set Naenae cricket club juniors enjoy water resized2up their new junior section, Club Captain Marcel Wratt and his committee showed their leadership and demonstrated how sport has a role to play in providing a health promoting and family-friendly environment. “We think it is important, especially in younger age groups to encourage development of good habits, and drinking water is one of the things we are really passionate about encouraging.” 

“Turning the Tide was started by Healthy Families Lower Hutt as a way of inspiring our communities to see that together we can improve our collective health. What we are seeing in Naenae is that by acknowledging and celebrating the small (or big) changes to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play, this has inspired others to take action”, says Hayley Goodin, Manager of Healthy Families Lower Hutt.

With so many different organisations taking action it won’t be long until our tamariki in Naenae are living, learning, and playing in a community where water is the drink of choice, healthy kai is shared and being active is their normal.

What can you do to turn the tide for our tamariki?

For ideas on what action you can take visit turningthetide.org.nz.