Great South Coast study to help fight childhood obesity

More than 2,500 children will participate in a Great South Coast study to help fight childhood obesity.

Primary school students were invited to participate in the Great South Coast Health Behaviours Study, which aims to improve the health of Victorian children and adolescents.

It will examine influences on healthy weight and related behaviours including physical activity, sedentary behaviour, diet quality and quality of life.

Active: St Patrick's Primary School Koroit student Claudia Tutt, 11, could be one of the 2500 students to participate in a Great South Coast Health Behaviours Study. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Active: St Patrick's Primary School Koroit student Claudia Tutt, 11, could be one of the 2500 students to participate in a Great South Coast Health Behaviours Study. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Global obesity centre director and World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University Professor Steven Allender said 83 schools were invited to participate.

These included schools in Warrnambool, Moyne, Camperdown, Colac, Hamilton and Portland.

Of those, 70 per cent of schools have signed up for the study which sees health services, primary care partnerships, councils, retail organisations, sporting clubs and major community leaders working together to prevent childhood obesity. 

From this term, children in years four and six will complete a brief questionnaire about their physical activity, sedentary behaviour, food intake and health and wellbeing.

They and their year two counterparts will also have their height and weight measured privately with trained researchers.

Some children will be asked to wear a match-box sized activity monitor (accelerometer) during waking hours for 78 days. 

Professor Allender said work began in 2013 and the National Health and Medical Research Council was funding the study from 2015 to 2021 to help to develop a community response.

“This is the second round of measurement,” Professor Allender said.

“We measured the first time in 2015 so we will know in the middle of this year which communities are beginning to make inroads into the problem. It’s part of a much larger piece of work where we’re working with all of the different agencies in the region on a large childhood obesity prevention project. We’re taking height, weight and behavioural data from 2500 kids, but it’s part of a much bigger effort. We’re working with the community leadership to help them identify the best way to improve the health of their kids.

“That’s really critical. The data is interesting but the purpose of it is to support communities in deciding how and where to improve the health of their kids. 

“Every two years we’ll know how quickly we’re winning the fight and who’s winning and help share that information across other communities so we accelerate the way we help solve the problem.”

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