Health battle for our kids
Wangaratta to take on challege of childhood obesity
COMMUNITY leaders in Wangaratta will be enlisted to tackle the issue of childhood obesity as the district joins in a Deakin University initiative.
The Rural City of Wangaratta is among 12 local government areas in the North East taking part in the RESPOND program, which aims to reduce the region’s childhood obesity rates over the next five years; it will also be rolled out in Alpine, Benalla, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Mansfield, Mitchell, Moira, Murrindindi, Strathbogie, Towong and Wodonga from next year.
Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, through its Global Obesity Centre, will partner with community leaders to deliver the initiative, supported by a $1.5 million National Health and Medical Research Council project partnership grant, and $2.6 million in partner contributions.
RESPOND will work with each of the communities in driving positive and practical changes from the ground up, aiming to make them world leaders in promoting healthy
weight among children.
It will assist the rural city to identify its own community-specific actions to create healthier food environments and get local kids more active.
“Changes will range from big to small,” Professor Steven Allender, director of the Global Obesity Centre, said.
“They could include the ways organisations allocate funding, local government approaches in zoning and licensing, removal of sugar sweetened beverages from community facilities, es-
tablishing walking school buses, introducing healthy options at school canteens, or improving the availability of tap water in public settings.
“RESPOND will offer the region a cutting edge approach to support communities to successfully address the complex drivers of childhood obesity.
“The initiative includes training those working in community health and education to apply methods from ‘systems science’ to the prevention of obesity and the establishment
of a childhood obesity monitoring system for evaluation.
“Ultimately, it’s about encouraging a whole of community approach to create a healthy environment that helps our children get the best start to life, because our research shows that improving community capacity is a key driver of reducing childhood obesity levels.”
In Victoria, 28.6 per cent of children aged two to 17 are classified as either overweight or obese.
Professor Allender said it was critical to focus on providing a healthy environment for children, as this had a positive flow-on effect to the whole community.
“Children who are overweight or obese are likely to remain overweight as adults, so we need to be addressing this serious public health issue in a preventative way, right from the start,” he said.
“Community interventions are proving their effectiveness all around the world, so this is the next evolution in this approach.”