Does the sport-related food environment support children's right to health?
Smith, Moira Beatrice
Under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children have the right to health and live in conditions that support that right, including a healthy food environment. However, a substantial proportion of the child population in New Zealand bear the burden of diet-related chronic conditions, especially overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries, suggesting that not all New Zealand children’s rights are being realised. Children’s dietary patterns are shaped by physical, socio-cultural, economic and political elements of their food environments. Food is strongly associated with sport. Consequently, sport and sport settings constitute an important part of children’s food environments. However, little is known about how children and parents view the New Zealand sport-related food environment, and how well it supports children’s right to health. This study aimed to understand the nature of the sport-related food environment from children’s and parents’ point-of-view and their opinions on it, and to determine its compliance with, and reasons for any breaches of, UNCRC. Children (n=82) and parents (n=32) were purposively selected from football, netball and rugby clubs in Wellington, New Zealand, and given cameras to record the food related items they associated with sport. The photographs were used in focus groups to determine children’s and parents’ views on the sport-related food environment. The data were analysed using thematic analysis, guided by the Analysis Grid for Environments Linked to Obesity framework, and contextualized using a child right’s approach. On balance, children and parents report the sport-related food environment in New Zealand is obesogenic. It would appear that the nature of the New Zealand’s sport-related food environment is such that children’s rights to healthy food and to the availability of nutrition information are not realised, children are not adequately protected from exploitation and harm as they entitled to, and that it does not support parents in meeting their responsibilities in providing a healthy food environment for their children. Such breaches of children’s rights indicate that the decisions made within the sport-related food environment prioritise economic factors and food industry self-interest over children’s best interests. As such, the New Zealand sport-related food environment does not support children’s right to health. Improving children’s sport-related food environment requires a comprehensive approach involving a range of interventions, and underpinned by UNCRC so that the decisions made within it are weighted in favour of children’s health and well-being. As signatories to UNCRC, governments have international legal obligations to implement all necessary measures to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights. Accompanied by global guidance, such leadership would support parents, sports coaches, clubs and organisations, and health professionals and other civil society members who also have responsibilities to children in this arena. Sport is a global phenomenon and it would appear that the New Zealand sport-related food environment, and children’s and parents’ views on it, are similar to other countries. Thus, the findings of this study may be relevant to other governments, and to sports clubs and sporting organisations internationally.
Advisor: Signal, Louise; Edwards, Richard; Hoek, Janet
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Public Health
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: child health; nutrition policy; food policy; child rights; child obesity; sport; food environment
Research Type: Thesis