Health bat­tle for our kids

Wan­garatta to take on chal­lege of child­hood obe­sity

Wangaratta Chronicle - - News -

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.”

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