A man tackling obesity head-on is keen to make the most of the opportunities offered by the new Hawke’s Bay Community Health and Sport Centre.
Les Hokianga has been working with a dads’ group for six months. Nicknamed “The Front Row”, they are 25 men who were all well over 150kg when they started and have been working out four times a week to address their issues.
Hokianga says the programmes and expertise of the HBCHSC will provide, including around nutrition, exercise and behaviour change, will further improve their health and lifestyles.
“Obesity, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition have long been known to be a particular problem in Hawke’s Bay,” he says.
“The situation is well documented in health reports; much of it put down to a general lack of activity in our communities.”
Hokianga says for some people these common health issues become acute and present major life challenges, not just for the individuals concerned, but also for their families and our community.
As such, he is determined to be part of the solution to the problem – by working with fathers.
“Dads have a major impact on nutrition, or bad nutrition at least, because they often get the call to pick up takeaways or food for the family on the way home,” says Hokianga.
“I saw this group as a key opportunity to changing family eating habits which had traditionally been very difficult to influence and get access to.”
Hokianga says fathers impact the whanau hugely – and in turn their moko worry about their dads.
“What I see, is a lot of focus on early childhood, which is great, but at the end of the day, the dads bring the kai home,” he says.
Through his program Hokianga has seen and identified a range of issues that arise from obesity including isolation when people feel they have no support and the struggles they face trying to carry out simple daily tasks.
As such he is excited about the possibility of building on his work by partnering with the HBCHSC, an initiative led by Sir Graeme Avery.
Sir Graeme says people like Hokianga and his men are a real motivation for him.
“Les is an inspiration for us all,” he says.
“We know that the research-led programmes and facilities we are developing are going to have an immediate impact for heroes like Les and the families in our community he is working with.
“We can’t wait to see this in action.”