Child invisibility in Aotearoa New Zealand childhood obesity policy: A qualitative case study of children’s voices in obesity policy

This project is trying to understand how children’s voices have informed childhood obesity policy in Aotearoa New Zealand.


A qualitative case study. Data describing children’s voice in Aotearoa New Zealand child obesity policy was collected using interviews (n=6), document analysis (n=4) and field note observations. The data was analysed using Sharan Merriam’s coding method and content analysis.


Child voice in Aotearoa policy about childhood obesity was minimal due to the invisibility of children during policy development. Children experienced cultural exclusion and restrictive advocacy from adults in policy operating in a culture of child invisibility. The dominant voices in childhood obesity policy were adults and whanau. The advocacy of children and tokenistic attitudes were prevalent in child participation in childhood obesity policy development.


According to UNCROC, children’s voices should be present and visible in all policies that concern them. However, this study identified ethical barriers, time restrictions and epistemological differences that prevented children’s voices from informing childhood obesity policy.

Implications for public health

Child participation supports policy with issues of social injustice such as childhood obesity. This study demonstrated child invisibility in childhood obesity policy and confirm that policy design processes need to change to be more inclusive of children.

This paper is currently being reviewed for publication in the Australian and NZ Journal of Public Health and the link posted here when published.

Quick facts


  • Kim Arrowsmith (National Hauora Coalition)