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An Insatiable Hunger



Life is full of challenges – but some Kiwis face more than their fair share. Some grow up in a world where parents must padlock the fridge and cupboard doors to keep food away from their children, or where kids scavenge in school rubbish bins or steal their classmates’ lunches.

Inside New Zealand’s compelling one-hour documentary, Insatiable Hunger, produced by the Gibson Group, follows four New Zealand families – each with children living with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).

A condition afflicting more than a hundred New Zealand families, PWS is a rare, non-inherited, genetic defect. It is lifelong and life threatening. It affects all races and both sexes and it is not known how it’s caused.

On average, two Kiwi babies a year will be born with the condition which is characterised by: an insatiable appetite; low muscle tone limiting exercise and play; and behavioural problems. Cruelly, the insatiable appetite is coupled with a slow metabolism, meaning that PWS kids gain weight at a faster rate than other children.

While there is no cure for the condition, regular injections of Growth Hormone have been proven to reduce fat and improve muscle tone, lowering the chance of obesity and related complications. But New Zealand PWS kids face an ongoing battle to fit within strict criteria for funded treatment set by Pharmac, NZ government drug-governing agency.  This, despite the fact that in many countries overseas, the treatment is government-funded for those with PWS.

Each stage of the condition – from stunted development at birth, to the beginnings of the insatiable appetite around age 3-5, to behavioural problems and adolescence, through to independent living – opens up a unique set of challenges.

Insatiable Hunger takes us inside this remarkable condition as we follow a year in the life of our families – each at different stages of the condition and each facing daily battles. All are on the brink of change and life as they know it is about to change.

Will 18-month-old Amelia Reid be given access to the life-changing Growth Hormone treatment so that she can have a chance at developing normally? Will this be the last year that three-year-old Cameron O’Reilly has free access to food and treats? Will 11-year-old Darcy Harris complete the school year in the mainstream education system? Will 22-year-old Francie Thornton be forced out of her sheltered flat because she’s unable to manage her weight – and her temper?

Insatiable Hunger offers us a rare glimpse at what it’s like to live inside the world of PWS – the pain, the frustrations, the joys. It reveals the strength of the human condition over immense odds.

Technical Specifications

TV Production

Production Year: 2007

Category: Documentary

Commissioning Broadcaster: TV3

Duration: 44 mins