Aim: To explore sociocultural factors that may promote or prevent obesity in Pacific communities in New Zealand. Specific objectives were to describe the behaviours, beliefs and values of Pacific adolescents and their parents, related to food consumption and physical activity and to examine the patterns among obese and non-obese Pacific adolescents and their parents.
Methods: A self-completion questionnaire was administered to 2495 Pacific students who participated in the New Zealand arm of the Obesity Prevention In Communities (OPIC) project, with quantitative comparisons between 782 obese and 814 healthy weight students. Sixty-eight people (33 adolescents and 35 parents) from 30 Pacific households were interviewed in the qualitative phase of the study.
Results: Healthy eating and higher levels of physical activity were related to parental presence at home, parental occupational type (non-shift) and better health education and experience. Obese adolescents held the same attitudes, beliefs and values about food and physical activity as their healthy-weight counterparts, but these factors were not protective for obesity-risk.
Conclusion: This study indicates that social status and environmental factors related to poverty affect the health-promoting behaviours of Pacific communities in New Zealand. To address obesity in Pacific youth, specific macro-environmental changes are recommended including food pricing control policies to mitigate healthy food costs, revising sustained employment hour policies, making changes to school food and physical activity environments.