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Perceived barriers and incentives to increased physical activity for Pacific mothers in New Zealand: findings from the Pacific Islands Families Study


Correspondence to:
Professor Philip Schluter, Department of Public Health and General Practice, University of Otago, PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, NewZealand; e-mail:


Objective: To describe and compare Pacific and non-Pacific mothers’ perceived barriers and incentives to physical activity (PA) in New Zealand, and compare perceptions between Pacific mothers.

Methods: Three samples were utilised: (i) mothers with children aged 5–15 years living at home from a nationally representative cross-sectional postal survey of adults conducted in 2003 (n=1,070 including 62 Pacific mothers); (ii) a cohort of Pacific mothers with children born in 2000, and interviewed 6-years postpartum (n=934); and (iii) a nested cross-sectional sub-study of (ii) conducted at the 6-years measurement wave (n=240). Participants in samples (i) and (ii) responded to identical questions on perceived barriers (23 items) and incentives (13 items) to PA. Body mass index (BMI) and accelerometer quantified PA was measured in (iii).

Results: All barriers but one were significantly more influential for non-Pacific mothers than Pacific mothers and all incentives but one were significantly more likely to succeed for non-Pacific mothers. Pacific mothers’ perceptions of barriers and incentives to PA were similar between BMI and accelerometer quantified groupings.

Conclusions and implications: Pacific mothers appear not to see PA as an issue of importance. Culturally appropriate approaches aimed at improving PA and health is needed to engage Pacific mothers in New Zealand.