Healthy Families NZ: texting Auckland mums for a healthy start

  • Jo Goodhew
  • Tony Ryall

The government is investing an extra $1.6 million into getting the healthy eating message out to Waitemata and Central Auckland’s hardest-to-reach new mums and their families.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says local community health groups and Waitemata and Auckland District Health Boards are working together to encourage families, who are not well linked into health services, to access antenatal, postnatal and infant healthcare.

“One of the ways they will be achieving this is by texting them. Pregnant women and young mothers who have registered for the free service will receive text messages encouraging them to take up healthy and safe lifestyle choices during their pregnancy and postnatal period.

“This will be similar to successful text messaging used for smoking cessation which can double quit rates and has been implemented as a Ministry of Health funded national service,” says Mr Ryall.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew says that being overweight during pregnancy and childbirth not only leads to significant problems for mums, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, but also has significant adverse health outcomes for the child.

“There will be group education programmes at places like marae and churches on topics such as breastfeeding support, shopping on a budget, healthy cooking methods and fun ways to exercise.

“Evidence also suggests the elders of a family or community can have significant influence on the dietary and lifestyle choices made by younger mums – and that they don’t always do so correctly. So radio adverts will run on radio stations to make sure they understand the benefits of healthy eating and exercise for mums and babies,” says Mrs Goodhew.

Mr Ryall says the $1.6 million over two years is just one in a series of investments in Healthy Families that the government is making to help Kiwi families give their children a healthy start.

“Recent international research and advice from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman suggests that preconditions for overweight and obesity are set very early.

“This is why the government is focussing on improving women’s health during their pregnancy and their postnatal period by promoting healthy eating and physical activity for mums, and good nutrition for infants and toddlers,” says Mr Ryall.

Funding for the health promotion programme is from within the Ministry of Health’s existing budget. The $1.6 million announced is initially over two years and the project will be fully evaluated for potential further roll out.