Mobilising communities to tackle childhood obesity

Mobilising communities to tackle childhood obesity

A four-year trial in south west Victoria had a positive impact on takeaway food intake and health related quality of life measures in children. This has been the longest community-based intervention trial to date, however, we need more community-led studies like this to tackle childhood obesity, along with embedding prevention efforts into all aspects of the community for effect and sustainability.

The Whole of Systems Trial of Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity (WHO STOPS Childhood Obesity) was a whole of community systems-based approach to childhood obesity prevention across the Great South Coast region of Victoria. A series of group model-building workshops were held with community leaders and members across 10 communities. In the final workshop, the set of actions to implement were prioritised to address childhood obesity specific to local communities. Data was collected every two years, providing three data points, and involved more than 7000 primary school-aged children across 48 schools. This data included measured height and weight; and a survey to measure diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and health-related quality of life.

Results of the trial over four years indicated:

  • WHO STOPS initially reduced overweight/obesity in the intervention group in the first two years, however this increased in the subsequent two years, against no change in control communities. There are various possible reasons as to why overweight/obesity rebounded which requires further investigation.
  • Over the 4 years the trial helped children reduce takeaway food consumption and had a positive impact on health-related quality of life.
  • Results varied by age and gender indicating the need to adapt interventions.

Whole of community systems-based approaches show promise in addressing childhood obesity but need prevention efforts to be incorporated into all aspects of a community. Using a systems approach, to engage and empower community in a meaningful way and build community capacity to understand and respond to childhood obesity, supports ongoing efforts to improve children’s health.

Results from WHO STOPS Childhood Obesity trial have been published in the Journal of Obesity.

For more information about the trial, contact Penny Fraser or Kristy Bolton.

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