Poster Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting

Implementing the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) intervention in residential out-of-home care: Program outcomes and lessons learnt. (#217)

Rachael Cox 1 , Helen Skouteris 1
  1. Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia

Background: Rates of overweight/obesity among young Australians in out-of-home care (OOHC) are limited, but are estimated to be over 60%. Internationally, there are few studies that have trialled intervention programs designed to prevent excessive weight gain or combat existing overweight/obesity for children living in OOHC. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) program is, to our knowledge, the first program that focuses specifically on how food and physical activity can improve physical and psychosocial outcomes for young people in OOHC. The aim of this study was to investigate the experiences of HEAL participants regarding the intervention program.

Method: Twenty-two carers and five young people participated in semi-structured interviews. Participants were asked about their opinions and experiences in relation to participating in the HEAL program, as well as specific questions relating to establishment and/or maintenance of healthy lifestyle habits, barriers to creating a healthy eating, active living environment in residential care, and suggestions for future program development.

Results: Overall, the HEAL program was able to effect some level of change in the eating and/or physical activity habits of young people and carers. In particular, the HEAL program has resulted in: (1) an increase in the number of adolescents engaged in community sports, participating in meal preparation and availability of sports equipment; (2) conscious effort by staff to provide healthy snacks and meals, and (3) improvements in adolescent self-esteem, independent living skills, and development of ‘healthy’ relationships.

Conclusion: The HEAL program provided valuable insights into implementing interventions into real-world settings. To ensure HEAL is integrated into usual care, that is, program ownership is transferred from the developers to the participating agencies in a way that ensures program effects are sustained, it is integral that individual and organisational barriers are addressed as part of a planned, purposeful, and integrated implementation strategy.