Ki-o-rahi at the heart of Turanga Health’s plans

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Monday, November 21, 2011 Mere Takoko

A STEALTH approach to making exercise fun is at the heart of Turanga Healths new game plan to combat obesity.

A Ki-o-rahi fitness module will be showcased at the National Maori Nutrition and Physical Activity conference this week.

Ki-o-rahi is a traditional Maori game chosen by global fast-food chain McDonalds as part of its Passport to Play programme in 2005. It has already been taught in 31,000 American schools, to seven million children, but remains relatively unknown in New Zealand.

Turanga Health has promoted the game for the past two years. It is quickly becoming popular with schools, kaumatua and the disabled.

You dont have to be a flash rugby or netball player. It allows an even playing field because its new and everyone is at the same level, said health worker Stephanie Broughton.

Its appeal is due to its cultural dimension and it is an enjoyable pastime. The game helps to break down barriers and make physical activity more accessible.

The success of Ki-o-rahi is rapidly growing interest from other health services looking for Maori-inspired approaches to combat growing obesity rates.

Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and some cancers. One in three adults is overweight in New Zealand and one in every four adults is obese.

This issue and more is to be discussed by health professionals at the three-day Hotu Manawa Maori-sponsored conference which starts tomorrow. Its the first time Gisborne will host the annual event.

The line-up of speakers includes Dr Ihirangi Heke who is noted for his work to revive traditional Maori sports like Ki-o-rahi. He is to present his research on how the reintroduction of traditional Maori games can address what he describes as the failure of the current health system.

We need to shift that framework to be a more culturally and socially-balanced system. Its like putting a square peg in a round hole, said Heke.

Fraser Taiapa will speak on the need to return to traditional Maori foods. Because the Maori food supply was largely made up of locally-available wildlife, the safety and protection of these local ecosystems has become an area of great concern.

Theres so many factors influencing whanau around being able to eat healthy kai or get out and be active, said conference spokesperson Sharon Pihema.

Were trying to take it back to how we used to do it.

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