Obesity prevention study targets child care centres

Jan 9 2013

A project at the University of Newcastle aims to help NSW child care providers implement programs that prevent childhood obesity.

Dr Luke Wolfenden* is set to begin working with 200 NSW pre-schools and long day care centres to determine how best to support them in improving the physical activity opportunities and healthy eating options for children.

The study is the first of its kind on this scale and uses intensive intervention strategies including staff training, support and feedback from the research team, and access to health education resources.

Dr Wolfenden, who was recently named HMRI’s 2012 PULSE Early Career Researcher of the Year, said existing health promotion strategies such as distributing information booklets to child care educators did not go far enough.

“One in four Australian children are classified as overweight or obese, Dr Wolfenden said.

“We know that creating childcare environments more supportive of physical activity and a healthy diet can prevent unhealthy weight gain in children,” he said.

“My research aims to find an effective way to support child care centres to implement healthy eating and physical activity promoting policies and practices.”

Dr Wolfenden hopes that by empowering child care providers to create a healthy environment, he can effect change.

“This study has the capacity to provide valuable information to policy makers and make an important contribution to the ways in which child care providers can help reduce the health burden of excessive weight gain in children,” Dr Wolfenden said.

The study is funded by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

* Luke Wolfenden is a Hunter New England Health public health program manager and researches in collaboration with HMRI’s Public Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Local Health District and the community.