Partnerships focusing on getting pre-schoolers and children up and moving for a long and healthy life
With one in four Australian children classified as overweight or obese, and the long-term impacts of sedentary behaviour for health and wellbeing well known, governments have turned to UOW researchers to assist with the implementation of effective education strategies.
Since 2008, researchers at UOW’s Early Start have been involved in developing programs aimed at sowing the seeds of a healthy lifestyle at a young age. The partnership began when UOW researchers won the contract to develop National Physical Activity Recommendations for children aged 0-5 years.
Subsequent research contracts to update the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines, and develop the Australian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, for children and young people, and the development of the new 24-hour integrated movement guidelines for the Early Years have followed. These projects saw the Early Start team lead systematic reviews and a structured process in guideline development, and provide the Commonwealth with final guidelines for the Australian community.
As well as the guiding of policy at the national level, the researchers have been involved in making a difference at the community level, through the Jump Start activity program.
Jump Start is a gross motor skill-based program for preschool aged children developed by a team led by Early Start’s Dr Rachel Jones. In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania approached the researchers about the program and agreed to co-fund its first translational trial (a pilot trial had shown that the program was efficacious and that both children and educators really enjoyed and engaged in the program).
The trial began in 2012 and was conducted in a number of Tasmanian Lady Gowrie early childhood education and care centres, facilitated completely by educators.
Its results informed a successful National Health and Medical Research Council grant, awarded in 2014, and the effectiveness of a revised version of Jump Start in 43 early childcare education and care centres in areas of disadvantage across New South Wales took place during 2015 and 2016.
The collaboration on Jump Start with the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services saw Dr Jones invited to contribute to a further initiative, the Being Active Matters! booklet, designed for parents of preschool aged children focusing on the importance of active play and the development of gross motor skills.
The initiative was undertaken in collaboration with the Women Sport and Recreation Tasmania, the Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania, Child Health Association Tasmania and the University of Wollongong and was distributed to all early childhood education and care centres in Tasmania.
The uptake of this booklet was evaluated and revised and a second version - Being Active Matters! 2 - was disseminated to every early childhood education and care centre in Tasmania in 2016.
According to Dr Jones, the key impact to emerge from this partnership has been for both partners to understand “the critical importance of professional learning in the area of physical activity”.
“This led to us approaching Lady Gowrie in 2015 with a new and innovative idea, based on current evidence, of how professional learning focused on healthy eating and physical activity could be more effectively delivered to early childhood educators,” Dr Jones said.
This project has implemented and is evaluating the efficacy of an online professional learning package in all 15 Lady Gowrie centres in Tasmania, with the researchers hoping to secure funding to roll out the package across the nation.
Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania
Commonwealth Department of Health
Lady Gowrie Tasmania
Dr Rachel Jones, Prof. Tony Okely, Dr Dylan Cliff, Dr Lyn Phillipson, Dr Stewart Vella, Dr Rute Santos, Dr Rebecca Stanley