Good health and happiness
Arming children with the tools for a healthy lifestyle puts a big smile on the face of education lecturer, Associate Professor Philip Morgan.
He moves to the edge of his seat to tell the story of a boy who was involved in one of his childhood obesity studies and is now a very happy member of a Newcastle representative sports team.
Undertaken with the University of Wollongong and Newcastle colleagues Associate Professor Clare Collins and Tracy Burrows, HIKCUPS (Hunter and Illawarra Kids Challenge Using Parent Support), is a two-year study designed to show the importance of practical physical activity and nutrition programs in the development of healthy behaviours.
Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the randomised trial combined physical skill development and dietary modification programs in overweight and obese children aged from five to nine years. It divided participants into three groups: physical activity education only; nutrition education only; and a combination of the two.
Morgan said while childhood obesity interventions generally had limited success, HIKCUPS results had been overwhelmingly positive, with 12-month data showing long-term improvement in the participants of the three groups.
"Even after a year, all of the children significantly improved their weight profile and the quality of their diets," Morgan said.
"Comparing the three, the diet-only and the combined groups did better than the physical activity only."
Three new projects are extending Morgan’s research. The first is SHED-IT (Self-help, exercise and diet using information technology), an online weight loss program designed to provide support for weight loss in a format that appeals to overweight men.
The second is ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’, designed to help fathers promote and demonstrate positive physical activity and healthy eating behaviours for their children.
The third is being undertaken with St Catherine’s Catholic College at Singleton and involves creating a school vegetable garden to find out whether children who grow vegetables are more inclined to eat them.
Associate Professor Morgan’s ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’ project is supported by a Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) grant from the 2008 Gastronomic Lunch of the Year and the school garden project is funded by an HMRI grant from Coles.
Associate Professor Morgan works in collaboration with HMRI’s Public Health Research Program.