A LANDMARK fat-fighting program has helped cut the rate of overweight and obese girls in the region by more than 7 per cent and revolutionised the children.
The Good for Kids, Good for Life program is aimed to address the modern-day medical emergency of childhood obesity by empowering primary schools, childcare centres, health professionals and sports clubs to promote healthy eating and exercise.
Results for the 2006-2010 program, released to The Leader this week, show not just a stunning turnaround in obesity rates in Hunter/New England children, but a remarkable take-up rate from participants.
Close to 80 per cent of all childcare centres and community service organisations in the region took part, while 69 per cent of primary schools, 70 per cent of nurse practitioners and 41 per cent of junior sports clubs jumped on board.
The program dramatically cut the rate of overweight and obese girls in the region at a time when the state average was rising and achieved a 6 per cent reduction in the obesity rate of boys and girls combined.
“We based the program on the principle that to reduce obesity you have to change the environment children live and play in,” Hunter New England Population Health director John Wiggers said.
“We tried to change what happened in schools, in childcare centres, in health services and on the sporting ground on a Saturday morning,” Dr Wiggers said.
Encouraging greater consumption of fruit and vegetables and water, cutting back on fast foods and dragging kids away from TVs and computers were central planks of the program.
For preschool-aged children, the proportion of participants having two cups or more of soft drink per week dropped from 40 per cent to 29 per cent, while the proportion of kids having adequate vegetable intake jumped from 58 per cent to 100 per cent.
Oxley Vale Milestones Early Learning Centre director Georgina Pettersen said the program complemented the centre’s philosophy of healthy living.
“We have written policies that say children can’t bring any junk food and we ensure children have two hours of physical activity a day,” Ms Pettersen said.
“We also try and give families healthy eating ideas.
“The program really reinforced what we were already doing.”
Hunter New England Local Health District was honoured for running the program at last Friday night’s 2013 NSW Health Innovation Awards, winning two prestigious awards.