A study ‘Temporal trends in weight and current weight-related behaviour of Australian Aboriginal school-aged children’ has found that stomach obesity is increasing at double the rate of non-Indigenous children.

The study was conducted in New South Wales schools by the University of Sydney and measured the height-to-waist ratios of children aged five to 17 over a 13-year period.

Results showed that between 1997 and 2010, the prevalence of being overweight, obesity, and weight to height ratio, increased more rapidly in Aboriginal children in comparison to non-Aboriginal children.

It also found that Aboriginal children had significantly lower odds of eating breakfast daily, significantly greater odds of drinking one cup of soft drink daily, having no [television] screen time rules and exceeding screen time recommendations on weekdays.

Researcher Dr Blythe O’Hara told ABC Indigenous that weight around stomachs can cause serious health problems.

“[It] puts them at risk of things like cardio-metabolic ill health, so things like cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions that can come later on in life,” she says.

The study also found Indigenous children were more likely to have bad eating habits.

“Thirty-five per cent of non-Aboriginal kids compared to 50 per cent of Aboriginal kids ate dinner in front of the television at night,” Dr Blythe told ABC Indigenous.

Unhealthy weight-related behaviour was frequent among all children, but lack of daily breakfast, excessive screen time and soft drink consumption appeared to be particularly problematic among Aboriginal children.

The survey recommends that raising awareness with families about the consequences of excessive screen time, and encouraging strategies to limit screen time, such as rethinking the placement of televisions in children’s bedrooms, holds promise.

The aim of the study was to report 13-year-trends in weight status of Australian Aboriginal children, and to describe weight-related behaviour in children in 2010 by Aboriginality.

The study involved an analysis of the New South Wales Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey, a representative cross-sectional population.

Three surveys were conducted in term one of 1997, 2004 and 2010. The cross-sectional population surveys involved children aged 5-16 years from Government, Catholic and Independent schools.