October spotlight on childhood obesity: key PEACH™ learnings and why do services matter?

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Key learnings from the free PEACH™ (Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health) program delivered across Queensland over the past three years will be presented this month in Brisbane at the 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society (ANZOS).

The ANZOS meeting, to be held 19-21 October at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, follows World Obesity Day next week (Tuesday, 11 October) which is focused on “calling for urgent government action to end childhood obesity”. In Australia in 2013, 888,502 school-aged children (aged 5-17.9 years) were overweight or obese, which is 23.7% of school-aged children. This figure is estimated to increase to 27.35% (or more than 1.2 million children) by 2025.*

PEACH™ is an evidence-based, parent-led healthy lifestyle program launched in Queensland in September 2013 in response to the high rates of overweight and obese children, with one in four Queensland children above their recommended healthy weight. PEACH™ has been delivered by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and funded by the Queensland Government.

A total of 1,122 primary school-aged children from 919 families enrolled in the 105 PEACH™ face-to-face programs organised across Queensland. These groups ran at 49 different locations, from the Gold Coast to Cairns in the north and out west to Longreach. In addition, an online format of the program was specially developed so families who were unable to attend face-to-face groups could also access PEACH™. A total of 287 families with 380 primary school-aged children enrolled in PEACH™ Online.

“We have been thrilled that more than 1,400 Queensland children have participated in PEACH™ and PEACH™ Online, and the information and feedback they have provided has been invaluable,” said Dr Helen Vidgen, QUT Senior Research Fellow for the PEACH™ program.

“The high numbers of children and adolescents who are above a healthy weight is both a national and global concern, as evidenced by the childhood obesity focus for World Obesity Day this year in line with the report from the World Health Organization Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO).

“The World Obesity Day call is for all governments to implement recommendations made in the ECHO report. These include strategies and universally available, family-focused programs to treat and manage childhood obesity and to prevent it through encouraging healthy food intake and physical activity.

“Childhood obesity has the potential to place considerable burden on future health costs and services and can lead to a greater risk of obesity in adulthood.”

Dr Vidgen will chair the ANZOS meeting panel discussion on Friday 21 October, titled ‘Services for children who are already overweight and obese: is it prevention, treatment or universal child health and why does it matter? A case study of Queensland’, at which key learnings from the PEACH™ program will be presented.

Dr Vidgen said evaluation of PEACH™ data collected in the past three years was being completed and will be presented in December in a report to the Queensland Government.

“We will have data on statistically significant improvements in the weight status of overweight and obese children after completing the face-to-face program, and on their vegetable intake, sugary drink consumption and changes in physical activity,” Dr Vidgen said.

“Families who took part in the PEACH™ groups tell us that they made lifestyle behaviour changes after completing the program, including introducing daily walks with their children, adding more vegetables to school lunchboxes, changing portion sizes, involving children in dinner preparation, and reducing the family’s screen time.”

Brisbane’s Dan and Carly Dryden and their two daughters, Ava, 8, and Sienna, 5, completed the PEACH™ face-to-face program a year ago, and Dan says what they learnt, and the positive changes they have made, have stayed part of family life.

“The program and keeping a food diary reinforced to us that our eating habits were essentially healthy, but we learnt about the right portion sizes and that what we needed was to be more physically active,” he said.

“We bought the girls a basketball hoop for Christmas and we encourage them to play and be active, and we do things together as a family, like go for bushwalks. Balancing the amount of time spent in front of screens was also a key for us, whatever type of screen it is – phone, iPad or TV.

“And Carly and I learnt that we have to be better role models for our kids, to lead by example. It is very easy when life gets busy to let things lapse, so when that starts to happen we go back to the information from the PEACH™ program to keep us on track.”

*International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) definitions of overweight and obesity: Cole TJ et al, BMJ 2000; 320: 1240.definitions
Obesity prevalence in 2000 and 2013: Ng et al, Lancet. 2014;384(9945):766-81.
Population projections: World Bank and UNDP databases.
Comorbidity prevalence in obese children: Lobstein T, Jackson-Leach R. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2006;1:33-41

More information:
World Obesity Day 2016: www.obesityday.worldobesity.org/
ANZOS 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting: http://anzos.com/annual-meeting/