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

The effectiveness of a systems approach to obesity prevention within an ACT high school (#261)

Lynne Millar 1 , Mary Malakellis 1 , Erin Hoare 1 , Andrew Sanigorski 1 , Melanie Nichols 1 , Boyd Swinburn 1 , Steven Allender 1
  1. WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia

The Australian Capital Territory It’s Your Move project (ACT IYM) was a 3-year (2012-2014) intervention that aimed to reduce unhealthy weight gain and increase mental well-being among adolescents through comprehensive systems level changes. The project involved 6 high schools (3 intervention and 3 comparison). This presentation is a case study of one intervention school.

To report the levels of overweight/obesity and depressive symptomology, plus changes to the food system, adolescent behaviours, and environments over the course of ACT IYM.

Baseline data were collected on 61% of all years 7 and 8 students (FU rate=72%). Anthropometry was measured and nutrition, school, family and home environment, and mental health questionnaires were completed. School Environmental Audits (SEA) reported on physical and policy environments while system maps captured the nutrition system changes over the study period. Relevant repeat measures statistical (significance p<0.05) and thematic analyses were conducted.

Overweight/obesity decreased from 29.3% at baseline to 24.4% at follow-up (p=0.046). The proportion of students reporting depressive symptomology remained stable (75.6% and 76.8%; p=0.317). According to systems maps, the school prioritised changing the nutrition system; internal and external partnerships were formed, environments changed, policies introduced, curriculum areas expanded to include health, information disseminated and programs embedded. Survey results indicated that perceptions of the healthiness of environments and teachers as good role models improved. Students consumed less fruit juice (p=0.008) and more water (p=0.046) at follow-up. The SEA showed that the healthiness of food choices at the canteen improved and a comprehensive food policy introduced.

This novel approach to obesity prevention delivered successful results within this school. Systems’ evaluations showed strong movement in the right directions for positive health outcomes including policy change, creation of new and stronger networks, increased awareness of the importance of health and the emergence of leaders for better health within schools.