UQ collaborates with health professionals to redesign childhood obesity fighting measures
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UQ collaborates with health professionals to redesign childhood obesity fighting measures

by Freya Lucas

December 02, 2021

The University of Queensland (UQ) is collaborating with a number of health professionals to re-design and improve strategies to prevent childhood obesity, in recognition of the fact that obesity is a chronic condition that’s difficult to reverse, meaning prevention is important and most effective in the early years.

 

Aware of the powerful role played by digital technologies, Dietitian and UQ Research Fellow Dr Oliver Canfell is part of a team developing an online tool kit that can be used to prevent obesity in the young.

 

“We’ve seen real-world impacts recently – people with obesity who contract COVID-19 often have worse outcomes than people with healthy weight,” Dr Canfell said.

 

“Children and families look to health professionals for support but are commonly not receiving care until it is too late,” he added, saying clinicians need new ways of working so they can focus on prevention, and digital health can help enormously.

 

The first step towards achieving that goal is the Precision Support for Preventing Childhood Obesity (PRECISE) program, a partnership between UQ and Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld).

 

Almost 20 health professionals including GPs, child health nurses and dietitians have been recruited from across Queensland to design the digital solutions to focus on prevention in routine practice.

 

The tools designed in the PRECISE program will be available via Clinicians Hub, a central digital platform created by HWQld to help health professionals effectively prevent and manage childhood obesity.

 

HWQld Chief Executive Dr Robyn Littlewood said obesity had many causes which made it a particularly complex problem to address.

 

“It can be a challenging topic to raise with families, and research shows many doctors feel ill-equipped to manage this complex and sensitive health issue,” Dr Littlewood said.

 

“Clinicians Hub offers a variety of clinical tools, resources and training to help health workers identify, prevent and talk about childhood obesity with confidence and impact.

 

With one in four Queensland children living above a healthy weight range, the findings of the research will also have an impact on the early childhood education and care (ECEC) setting. 

 

“These patterns are usually well established before five years of age – so we really need to get in early,” Dr Littlewood added.

 

“We need to work smarter together and this is exactly what digital health does.”

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