Professor Tony Okely is Director of Research at Early Start and Senior Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his research, Dr Okely aims to better understand and promote healthy levels of movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep) in children.
Dr Okely is passionate about equipping children and those who work with and care for them with the knowledge and skills they need to provide the environments for healthy movement behaviours.
His research has looked into how varying child care settings may impact the development of a child’s fundamental movement skills.
His research involves observational studies that describe the prevalence and patterns of these behaviours. He connects the dots between behaviours, health, education, intellectual development and then creates intervention strategies and guidelines.
Professor Okely led the research team that developed the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (birth to five years): An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Time and Sleep and the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children and Young People.
He was also part of the Guideline Development Group for the most recent World Health Organization global guidelines on physical activity, sedentary and sleep behaviours in children under five years of age.
He has studied socio-economic status, knowing cognitive differences associated with low socio-economic status begin early in life and tend to persist. The work can inform programs and policies designed to optimise developmental and health outcomes in young children, specifically those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He is current leading an international surveillance study of 24-hour movement behaviours in the early years (called SUNRISE) which involve around 30 countries, more than half of which are from either low or middle-income backgrounds according to the UN Human Development Index.