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Improving the health of pre-schoolers: simple childcare-based interventions delivered at scale

Dr Alice Grady, Institution: The University of Newcastle

2019 Postdoctoral Fellowship

Years funded: 2021-2022


Inadequate physical activity and poor dietary intake are modifiable risk factors for obesity, one of the largest contributors to cardiovascular disease (CVD) globally. In Australia, one in four children are overweight or obese. As physical activity and dietary behaviours developed in childhood track into adulthood, establishing healthy habits in children is recommended to prevent the development of obesity. Childcare services offer an ideal setting in which to intervene as they provide access to a large proportion of children at a key developmental stage.

Findings from systematic reviews indicate young children are not sufficiently active during attendance at childcare, nor are they consuming the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables. Despite substantial input from government and community, interventions known to improve the physical activity and dietary intake of young children in care are rarely implemented into practice, often due to interventions being overly complex and unsuitable for ‘scale up’. In order to produce the greatest health impact, interventions need to not only be effective, but also 'scalable'.

This fellowship will address the need for both effective and scalable interventions to enhance the public health impact of obesity-prevention initiatives in the childcare setting. The research will be based around a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) and a large NHMRC Partnership Grant to improve the implementation of evidence-based obesity prevention interventions in childcare. It will use rigorous methods, and involve key stakeholders in the identification of ‘simple’ and ‘scalable’ interventions likely to yield the greatest public health impact. If effective, the simple and scalable intervention has the real potential to improve the health of the 662,000 children attending formal care in Australia, substantially reducing the burden of CVD.

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