Obesity research targeting 3 to 5 year olds

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A ground-breaking study at the University of Wollongong, Australia is targeting factors affecting the development of obesity in young pre-school children aged between three and five.

The innovative research study, known as "PANDA" (Pre-School Activity ‘n’ Dietary Adiposity Study) will, for the first time in Australia, examine associations among the children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours, their ability to perform fundamental movement skills, their foot structure and function, their perceived competence, and parental attitudes towards food and eating habits and sedentary and physical activities.

Research project manager, Dylan Cliff, said the pre-school period was a critical period of profound change in the physiology and behaviour patterns of children.

"It is imperative that we better understand factors that may influence the development of obesity in these critical years," he said.

PANDA will provide unique opportunities for children to participate in a wide range of fun physical and non-physical activities, using the latest technology in an enjoyable, supportive and positive environment in which they can thrive.

"Parents too will play a vital role in the success of PANDA providing much needed answers to some very important questions," Mr Cliff said.

Dr Tony Okely and Associate Professor Julie Steele, together with three research honours students from the University of Wollongong, Alison Crowshaw, Karen Mickle and Leif Smith are conducting PANDA in pre-schools located on the NSW South Coast during School terms 1, 2 and 3, with proposed follow-ups at four 6-monthly intervals for two years.

"Clearly, childhood obesity is a significant community health problem that requires an urgent and informed response, so let’s help curb this current epidemic among our youth and make their current and future lifestyles fun, enjoyable and most importantly healthy," Mr Cliff said.

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