Australian study seeking children 2-6 for healthy habits trial
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Australian study seeking children 2-6 for healthy habits trial

by Freya Lucas

November 07, 2019

A collaborative study by researchers from the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Early Start, NSW Health and the University of Newcastle is exploring ways in which parents and carers can help children to develop healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and sleep habits in young children. 


Parents and carers of children aged between two and six years of age are sought to take part in the trial, with Dr Megan Hammersley, an Associate Research Fellow with Early Start highlighting the importance of embedding healthy habits from a young age. 


“Early childhood is really the crucial time to act. We know that people who have obesity in childhood are much more likely to have that track into adulthood and to be at risk of chronic diseases” she said. 


Participants in the study will take part in one of three 12-week programs: an online program; a telephone coaching program; or a program using printed tip sheets and a summary booklet. The programs are free and can be completed at home at a time that is convenient for the participants.


In each of the programs participants receive practical information and tips about healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and sleep.


Dr Hammersley said the programs feature tips and ‘really practical advice’ on how to make changes. One of the main goals noted so far in the program is parents who want to increase their child’s vegetable intake, an area where many struggle. 


“A good approach is to expose children to as many types of vegetables as possible. Over time, they’ll be more inclined to try them. It can take up to 15 times before they give it a taste, but being persistent and giving gentle encouragement without too much pressure is crucial” she said. 


Rather than an individual focus on one or two habits, it is best to take a holistic approach, the doctor noted, saying that focusing on one at a time is less likely to be effective. 


“Particularly for healthy eating and physical activity, it’s been proven that if you focus on both together it’s more likely to be successful. And of course, screen time is a real issue now for parents. It is really important to look at the whole picture” she said. 

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