UOW invited to work with WHO on children’s health outcomes
The Sector > Research > UOW invited to work with WHO on children’s health outcomes

UOW invited to work with WHO on children’s health outcomes

by Freya Lucas

July 11, 2023

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been invited to form a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre to offer expert advice and technical support to WHO Western Pacific member nations in the areas of children’s food, nutrition and physical activity.


The Collaborating Centre will be based out of UOW’s Early Start and the School of Health and Society, and will be led by Associate Professor Bridget Kelly and Distinguished Professor Anthony Okely. 


Four main areas of focus will be at the core of the work of the Collaborating Centre, namely: 


  • food marketing; 
  • food labelling for promoting healthy diet; 
  • guidelines, standards and action plans around healthy eating and physical activity among children; and, 
  • generating regional evidence on children’s dietary and physical activity behaviours.


“Through the Collaborating Centre, we will provide technical support and expertise to WHO to support countries in the Western Pacific in developing, researching, and implementing and evaluating policies and programs related to children’s nutrition and activity,” Associate Professor Kelly explained.


“Our work through the Centre will involve providing policy and program support to governments, including advising on technical aspects, and supporting and co-designing research to progress-related policies. Some of these policy areas include controls to protect children from unhealthy food marketing, signposting food healthfulness through nutrition-labelling, and surveillance of young children’s physical activity,” she added.


Unhealthy food marketing impacts children’s diets, and restrictions to marketing exposure are important from a whole population’s perspective. The WHO has established that member states in the region are experiencing gaps in their capacity to design and implement policies to protect children from the harmful impacts of food marketing, and UOW expertise will help to guide policy and deliver training in this key focus area.


“WHO Collaborating Centres are by invitation only and a pre-requisite is a minimum of three years of collaborative research with the WHO across a range of projects,” Professor Okely added. 


“They are considered highly prestigious in public health, so we are delighted to be partnering with the WHO Western Pacific Region to support and advise on their important work in children’s nutrition and physical activity.”


Food labelling is another area that is a real priority for many countries. Proper, informative food labelling can support people to make healthy choices when buying packaged food, and there is a particular focus on front-of-pack signposting of more wholesome foods. 


UOW will lead an evidence review that will inform the WHO Guidelines for Nutrition Labelling and lead the development of guiding principles on front-of-pack labelling.


The Collaborating Centre will also tackle non-communicable diseases in children, strategies to end childhood obesity and address sedentary behaviour, especially in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings.


At the request of WHO, the Collaborating Centre will be available to conduct research on focus areas and support countries in their implementation of evidence-based policies and programs, in line with the WHO recommendations. The Collaborating Centre will also support research capacity across the region and will provide opportunities for UOW research student engagement.

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