Every summer during the Airport Adventure Festival, people travel to Cairns, Queensland to attend the McDonald’s IronKids Cairns Triathlon. The event starts with a swim through the Esplanade Lagoon, continues with a bike ride along the Esplanade and wraps up with a run along the boardwalk. Finishers receive a medal and are entered into a prize drawing. This year’s IronKids Triathlon is scheduled for 8 June 2013.
At the same time as many Queensland kids are participating in the triathlon, others are fighting a different kind of battle. Experts estimate that 20 to 23 per cent of children in Queensland are overweight or obese. The number of overweight and obese children in the state has grown 300 per cent over the past decade.
To fight these trends, Queensland has set up the “Kids on Track” program. It’s one of several programs in the area that are helping to make a positive change in children’s health by teaching them and their parents healthy eating habits.
Kids on Track
Healthy eating starts at home, and Queensland’s Kids on TrackÂ programÂ targets parents of overweight and obese youngsters. Parents who choose to participate attend a four-hour intervention session run by aÂ pediatrician, a psychologist, a dietitian and a physiotherapist. The session includes:
- A parent workbook. The workbook was developed specifically for the program, contains the latest research and builds on previously successful treatment programs.
- Clinical measurements. One parent and the identified child from each family have their heights, weights and waist circumferences measured.
- Logbook. Parents will log their child’s daily activities outside of school hours, the foods they consume and how much television they watch daily. They fill out the logbook for three days.
- Questionnaires. Parents fill out a total of three questionnaires that are designed for self-reporting of parenting habits.
Three months after treatment, the parents and children complete the clinical measurements and questionnaires again to evaluate their progress. The goal is to improve children’s health through better nutrition, physical activity andÂ behaviorÂ change.
Need for Feed
Diabetes Queensland has partnered with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to implement Oliver’s “Need for Feed” program. Oliver’s three-part formula for fighting childhood obesity includes teaching kids where food comes from, how food affects their bodies and how to prepare healthy meals.
Need for Feed is an offshoot of Oliver’s Ministry of Food, a program designed to get people in the U.K. and Australia back in the kitchen and cooking nutritious meals for their families from scratch. Need for Feed is a 20-hour after-school program open to students in years eight to 10 that teaches classes of 15 to 20 students how to cook simple meals like pizzas and pastas as well as healthier desserts like nutritious cakes and fruit bakes.
So far, Diabetes Queensland hasÂ trialedÂ the program in 11 Queensland schools. After the program, an average of 20 per cent of students say that they feel more confident preparing meals for their families. Overall, the organisation hopes to curb the development of Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic diseases that are overburdening the Queensland health system.
Healthy Kids Queensland
Healthy Kids Queensland is Queensland’s first state-wide initiative designed to decrease childhood obesity by reaching kids, educating their parents and building healthier communities. The initiative started by mailing a Healthy Weight Information Pack to every Queensland home and by sending out materials on Australia’s nationwide “2 and 5” program, which encourages people to eat two fruits and five vegetables per day.
The “Fit andÂ FueledÂ in Schools” initiative provides grants for both healthy eating and physical education, and the “10,000 Steps” program, implemented first in Rockhampton, has helped to motivate community members to become more active by using pedometers to try to take at least 10,000 steps per day. The program has also put forth a “Travel Smart” initiative that encourages walking and cycling as alternative forms of transportation.
Continued improvements in childhood obesity rates will help Queensland to curb the drain that chronic, obesity-related diseases have placed on the health care system. More and more kids may find that they have what it takes to compete in the Cairns IronKids Triathlon.
About the Author: Callie Greene is a running enthusiast who spearheads a running club for kids and their parents in her home community. The running club purchased Cairns airline tickets to go to the McDonalds IronKids Cairns Triathlon this coming June.