The prevalence of childhood obesity remains high in Australia. Clinical services have limited capacity to support families with children above a healthy weight range and services may not be accessible to many families.
The Go4Fun program, based on the twice per week MEND program, is a free healthy lifestyle program for children aged 7-13 years and their families, delivered at scale across NSW. The program is delivered by trained staff in local health districts. A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted to compare the participation in and effectiveness of a once per week program.
Routinely collected program monitoring data was analysed descriptively. The data includes sociodemographic characteristics of families and pre and post program children measurements of BMI, self-esteem, fitness and dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours.
To date, over 6000 families across NSW have participated in Go4Fun. Around 37% come from rural or regional communities and 77% from areas of relative social disadvantage, while 54% of mothers hold a health care card, demonstrating good reach into disadvantaged groups. On average Go4Fun children participants achieve clinically and statistically significant health and behavioural outcomes. BMI decreases by 0.6kg/m2 and recovery heart rate by 4.9 beats/minute. Fruit and vegetable intakes increase by 0.3 serves/day and 0.6 serves/day. Time spent in physical activity increases by 3.5 hours/week and in sedentary activities decreases by 2.9 hours/week while self-esteem improves significantly.
The recent RCT found that there was no difference in participation or outcomes between the once a week or twice a week version, and that at six month follow up that that BMI z-score remained statistically lower at six months after program completion (p<0.01).
The NSW Go4Fun program offers an effective community based solution to the treatment of overweight and obesity in children, particularly for disadvantaged families.