Childhood Obesity – What Can Schools Do?

Results from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey show that one quarter of children aged two–17 are overweight or obese, with 18 per cent being overweight and seven per cent obese.

While parents and carers are largely responsible for laying the foundations of lifelong good health in their children, schools also have a unique opportunity to tackle obesity in childhood.

According to the School of Public Health at Harvard University, there are several things schools can do to address childhood obesity amongst students.

childhood obesity kids lunchbox

Photo: article supplied

‘Serving healthy choices in the lunch room, limiting availability and marketing of unhealthful foods and sugary drinks, and making water available to students throughout the day are some of the ways that schools can help prevent obesity,’ the report says.

The authors acknowledge that in implementing any of these changes, there are several obstacles that schools may face.

‘Among the obstacles: budgeting for the higher costs of purchasing and preparing more healthful foods; coaxing children to accept the more healthful options; and addressing the multitude of ways that unhealthful foods and drinks are sold or served outside of school meals, from classroom birthday parties to school-wide bake sales and sporting events,’ the report says.

Obesity prevention policies and practices in Australian schools

In Australia, a variety of school obesity prevention initiatives have been implemented, including mandatory healthy school canteen guidelines, professional development programmes for teachers, and curriculum-based programmes.

The report Adoption of obesity prevention policies and practices by Australian primary schools: 2006 to 2013, published in 2015, looked at the extent to which schools have adopted obesity prevention policies and practices. Between 2006 and 2013, a representative randomly selected cohort of primary schools in New South Wales, Australia, participated in these interviews.

The study asked principals to report (yes/no/don’t know) to whether their school had the following policies or practices in place:

  • Incorporation of teaching healthy eating in key learning areas other than physical education;
  • Teaching of physical activity in key learning areas other than physical education;
  • Teaching of fundamental movement skills in the physical education program;
  • Written healthy eating and nutrition policy;
  • Written physical activity plan or policy;
  • Existence of vegetable and fruit breaks in class;
  • Existence of school playground markings for games and availability of sports equipment for student use;
  • School provision in past 12 months of information to parents/carers about healthy eating; and,
  • School provision in the past 12 months of information to parents/carers about physical activity.

This article was originally published by Teacher Magazine.

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Behaviour of Children and Adolescents with Prader-Willi Syndrome

Register for the 2017 National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference, held at the Mantra on View Hotel, Gold Coast 7 – 8 August.

Dr Joanne Griggs, Post- Doctoral Fellow for the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University joins us this year to discuss “The Effect of Caralluma Fimbriata on the Appetite: Behaviour of Children and Adolescents with Prader-Willi Syndrome”.

Dr Joanne Griggs Prader-Willi syndrome

Dr Joanne Griggs


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetic disorder which establishes hyperphagia over timed phases. To date there is inadequate pharmacological treatment or supplementation for modification of the phase two unremitting hunger which is established at a mean age of eight years.  Best practice against hyperphagic behaviours is familial supervision of diet and restriction of environment i.e. food-seeking and excessive ingestion of food.


We conducted a 10-week placebo-controlled, double blind, randomized crossover trial, to investigate hunger control through the ingestion of a natural supplement Caralluma fimbriata extract (CFE) (dose 250mg/10kg up to 1000mg) against a placebo of maltodextrin/cabbage leaf (Griggs et al. 2015). Our cohort were children and adolescents from Australian and New Zealand with confirmed PWS (n=15, mean age 9.27yrs ± 3.16, body weight 43.98kg ± 23.99). Measurements were weekly comparisons in appetite behaviour, severity and drive recorded by parents as scaled time-point measures on hyperphagia questionnaires validated for PWS (Dykens 2007).


CFE administration was found to induce a significant accumulative easing of hyperphagia (p = 0.05) with decreases, due to CFE recorded in the category of behaviour (p = <0.05) and gender (Females = 6), (p = 0.05). Hyperphagia was most strongly decreased at our highest dose 1000mg/d (recommended adult dose) (n=8, p = 0.009). Importantly there were no adverse effects at any dose.

Discussion and conclusion:

Non-intrusive methods were utilized due to the age and vulnerability of our cohort. However, it is important to recognize that the participants had well documented chronic behaviours which had not been modified by any previous processes. Concluding, management of appetite in PWS by CFE supplementation is worth further consideration.

Further study

One year along, as a mother of a child with PWS, I know of 26 families utilizing CFE as a successful daily PWS treatment to enhance satiety.

The National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference focuses on the specific issues of eating disorders and obesity, the co-relationship within the context of mental health, the challenges surrounding public health in our current and future population and the role of physical health in maintaining our positive wellbeing.

Find out more here.

Friends’ Pictures on Social Media Have Biggest Impact on Body Image

Women are more likely to compare themselves with their peers than with celebrities.

Seeing friends’ carefully curated selfies on Facebook is more likely to induce feelings of guilt or shame among young women, and lead to unnecessary dieting, than images of models or celebrities they see in magazines.

Academics found that young women are more likely to compare their appearance with that of their peers’ images on social media than they were with celebrities on TV, adverts or other forms of traditional media. When they then make an unfavourable comparison with the other woman they are looking at, the impact is more pronounced when the image is on social media.

body image woman taking selfie with phone

Photo: article supplied

Women are also more likely to diet and do exercise when negative comparisons take place on sites such as Facebook or Instagram, the research found. The vast majority of study participants were not overweight and did not need to diet.

Researchers said the study, which will appear in March in the journal Body Image, has implications for how schools should teach young people about the influences that might affect their self-esteem.

Jasmine Fardouly, lead researcher at the centre for emotional health at Macquarie University, Sydney, said there are several reasons why social media may be more damaging than traditional media. “Celebrities may seem more distanced and their appearance may seem less attainable than people you work with or see regularly.”

The study, which questioned about 150 young women who completed five daily surveys over a five-day period, found that participants overwhelmingly considered themselves less attractive than the people they saw both online and in traditional media.

The negative impact that thin models and airbrushed adverts have on young women has been a source of concern for decades, but increasing attention is being paid to the role of social media. Around 70% of women aged 18 to 35 regularly edit their images before posting them – as do 50% of men in the same age group, according to research by the Renfrew Center Foundation, a US organisation that specialises in tackling eating disorders. Airbrushing on social media has become commonplace: Samsung users have reported that their phones default to a “beauty” mode that alters their faces and smooths out imperfections.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

Click here to read the entire article.

Group Therapeutic Factors Present in Group Therapy For Binge Eating Disorder

The 2017 National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference is being held at the Mantra on View Hotel, Gold Coast 7 – 8 August.

Ms Amy Redman, Psychologist at Kaye Frankcom and Associates will be attending this year’s conference, speaking about “Group therapeutic factors present in group therapy for binge eating disorder”.

Amy Redman

Group therapy is a common treatment method utilized for binge eating behaviours. Much research on psychological treatment for binge eating behaviours have focused on the theoretical orientation applied (for example DBT, CBT and Mindfulness) rather than the therapeutic benefits of the group format. There is limited research on the specific elements of group therapy that are helpful for this client group.

The aim of the study was to explore group therapeutic factors present in a mindfulness based therapy group, and the processes that support these factors. The study also aimed to explore the aspects of the group that participants found unhelpful. The study was qualitative and included both group members and group facilitators.

Using semi-structured interviews and the Most Important Events questionnaire, the therapeutic factors found in the MMEG program included Self-Understanding, Instillation of Hope, Acceptance, Guidance and Universality.  Processes attributed to supporting group factors were found to be elements of the assessment process, participants pre-treatment experiences and expectations, and practical aspects of the group (mindfulness and psycho-education).

Aspects of the group that were found to be unhelpful were when participants identified themselves as different to the others in the group. The findings of the current study have implications for the delivery of group therapy interventions for binge eating behaviours, and future research evaluating group therapy.

Doctors’ Perceptions of Communication when Treating Patients with Eating Disorders in the Acute Setting

The 2017 National Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference is being held at the Mantra on View Hotel, Gold Coast 7 – 8 August.

alexandra davidson - eating disorders and obesity conference

Alexandra Davidson

Miss Alexandra Davidson, Dietitian at Bond University will be at this year’s conference, presenting “Doctors’ Perceptions of Communication when Treating Patients with Eating Disorders in the Acute Setting”.

The treatment of patients with eating disorders has been acknowledged as complex and challenging for doctors and other health professionals.  Across inpatient and outpatient settings, doctor-patient communication has been extensively explored. Communication between the treating doctor, family, carers and other health professionals is less evident in the literature.

This study aimed to explore doctors’ perceptions and concerns about communication when treating patients with eating disorders in the acute setting.  Semi structured interviews were conducted with ten doctors with experience in the treatment of patients with eating disorders in general medical wards across two tertiary hospitals in the same city.

Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using directed content analysis.  Data was categorised deductively using a framework for teaching communication to healthcare students, across five pre-determined domains.  One additional domain was inductively developed for data interpreted to be related to communication but did not fit with the pre-existing framework.

Doctors described the challenges and the importance of communication across six categories including communication with people:

(1) Experiencing strong emotions (incorporating both patients and families)

(2) In different stages of life (incorporating child, adolescent and adult patients)

(3) Fulfilling particular life roles (incorporating colleagues and families)

(4) Experiencing long-term conditions (incorporating patients)

(5) In particular contexts (incorporating language barriers)

(6) To foster an authentic therapeutic relationship (the inductively developed domain – incorporating building and maintaining relationships with patients, families and colleagues)

The findings suggest that further training and education is needed to better prepare doctors and other health professionals to confidently communicate with key players in the treatment of eating disorders within the acute setting.