Associate Professor Rachael Taylor, from the University of Otago, is interested in developing programmes that help reduce childhood obesity. In this video, she talks about the APPLE research project that increased physical activity levels in a number of schools. This increase in activity had a positive impact on the weight of children.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR RACHAEL TAYLOR
Our goal is really to reduce the burden of childhood obesity if you like, so to try and develop programmes that could be incorporated into our wider healthcare system that actually impact on children’s weight in a positive way and in a healthy way as well.
So all our interventions are based on the best available evidence that we have to date – what has worked, what hasn’t worked in other studies around the world and in New Zealand but also on our own experience – so previous studies that we have actually done – and also on personal experience and talking to people about various issues, what is important for parents, all sorts of things, but you do base your research on what is out there. But research is also about developing new ideas and trying new things, so you might come up with something that you think, “Oh, I wonder if that would actually have an influence?”, and an intervention is our best way of testing that.
So APPLE was a community-based intervention in primary school-aged children. At the time when we set APPLE up, most of the interventions at that time had been sort of simple education interventions – so putting things into school curriculums to encourage children to eat more healthily and be more active. And from what we could see at that stage, essentially, it wasn’t working. Just telling people what they should and shouldn’t do actually isn’t enough.
So it was very simple. We put activity co-ordinators into these primary schools, and their role was really to get every child a little more physically active by developing new games at lunchtimes, at playtimes, at after school. Tried to get a lot of community involvement and to emphasise sort of lifestyle-based activities or less traditional sports, because most children get the chance to play our traditional sports if they want to.
And then we also did some nutrition education, predominantly around trying to reduce sugary drink intake and increasing your fruit and vegetables, and found that, at 2 years, the children in the intervention schools had reduced the rate at which they were gaining weight and had smaller waist circumferences and better blood pressure than the children in the control schools.
Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research