Anthony Okely

2021 Alumni Award for Research and Scholarship

On a mission to tackle childhood obesity, world-leading expert on physical activity and children, Senior Professor Anthony Okely has profoundly influenced the lives and futures of children, families and communities around the world.

Up to April 2021, Tony was Director of Research at Early Start. He is currently a Senior Professor of public health in the Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and a theme leader at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) at UOW, where he leads pioneering research on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep in children. His scholarly contribution to his field is immense. Tony has attracted more than $19 million in competitive funding, led prestigious national and international research projects, and published more than 300 highly cited peer-reviewed journal articles. He is currently ranked the world’s seventh most published researcher on physical activity and children.

Crucial to Tony’s impact is his determination to translate his research into national and international policy and practice. He led the development and recent update of the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children 0-5 Years and the Australian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Young People for the Department of Health, providing clear guidelines to shape healthier decisions for Australians and their children every day. He co-developed an online course with FutureLearn for parents, carers, educators and childcare workers on preventing childhood obesity, accessed by almost 13,000 learners from more than 146 countries to date. He publishes beyond academic media in outlets such as Mamamia, read by 5 million Australian women – to broaden the reach of his vital message.

As an internationally respected leader in his field, Tony is transforming the global response to childhood obesity. He served as a co-Director of the Australasian Child and Adolescent Obesity Research Network and was a key member of the expert panel that developed the World Health Organization Guidelines on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep for Children Under 5 Years of Age. He has also been involved in the development of similar guidelines for the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa.

Tony is currently leading the international SUNRISE study across 41 countries in predominantly low and middle-income nations, to map 24-hour movement behaviours among preschool-aged children. Closely aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the study aims to boost policy priority to improve physical activity environments for the world’s children.

A generous and motivated mentor, Tony fosters and elevates the next generation of researchers. He is also deeply involved in the local community, conducting outreach work through the Stronger Cultures Koori Kids program and Healthy Cities Illawarra, serving as chair of The Illawarra Grammar School Board and has served on the Parish Council of Figtree Anglican Church. 

Chancellor, Tony Okely is an outstanding researcher and scholar whose indelible contribution to one of our society’s most pressing challenges is changing young lives and creating a better tomorrow.

I am delighted to present Senior Professor Anthony Okely for the Alumni Award for Research and Scholarship.