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The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey - SPANS Report 2015

Physical activity for public health: In pursuit of rigorous evaluation in the real world
Did you miss the seminar? Watch the video!

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
A seminar on the American "Let's Move" program.

Policy Healthier Workplaces Project Research Node launch
A new research and industry collaboration.

Social Impact Investing
A forum with Louise Sylvan and others.

Policy responses to obesity prevention in Australia - local to national progress
A symposium co-hosted with Deakin University

New Strategies and Tools for Social Marketing Research & Practice
Watch the video of keynote speaker Dr R Craig Lefebvre.

PRC members and CPC colleagues awarded grant
This grant will be used to develop an online course in chronic disease prevention.

Dr Becky Freeman awarded NHMRC Early Career Fellowship
Dr Freeman's project focuses on translational research.

2014 news included a new WHO-CC PANO website, PRC move to the Charles Perkins Centre, research findings, and more

2013 and earlier included research findings, awards, and more

Current News

The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey - SPANS Report

The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) is a representative cross-sectional, school-based health behaviour surveillance survey of school children age 5 to 16 year. The survey is conducted by the Prevention Research Collaboration and lead by Dr Louise Hardy.

This is the fifth SPANS of NSW school students and provides valuable prevalence and trend information on the weight status and health behaviours of a representative sample of 7,556 school students in Kindergarten and Years 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, conducted in Term 1, 2015. In 2015, new indicators of children’s health were included: oral health, sleep, and muscular fitness.

Physical activity for public health: In pursuit of rigorous evaluation in the real world

Co-hosted by the PRC, the CPC, the Sax Institute and TAPPC, this seminar explored the need for and challenges of rigorous evaluation of real world situations. Dr David Ogilvie, from Cambridge University, was the keynote speaker; Prof Don Nutbeam (PRC and the Sax Institute), Elizabeth Flynn (Assistant Secretary, Preventive Health Policy, Australian Government Department of Health) and Prof William Trochim (Cornell University) joined as panellists.

Read more in the April 2016 PRC newsletter or watch the video.

The President's Council on Fitness, Sport and Nutrition

On 11th March 2016 Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the US President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition delivered a keynote address to invited seminar participants. The event was hosted by the Charles Perkins Centre and was jointly auspiced by the NSW Premier’s Council for Active Living (PCAL) and National Heart Foundation (NSW Division), and coordinated by the PRC/Boden Institute. The event was opened by CPC Academic Director, Professor Stephen Simpson, followed by remarks from Professors Ian Caterson (Boden) and Adrian Bauman (PRC).

Read more in the April 2016 PRC newsletter.

Healthier Workplaces Project Research Node launch

In November, researchers from PRC launched the Healthier Workplaces Project Research Node, a multidisciplinary research group studying workplace health in relation to physical activity and sedentary behavior. The Node is chaired by Drs Jo Chau and Lina Engelen; members represent seven faculties of the University of Sydney, as well as faculties from Victoria University, Curtin University, the University of Queensland and professionals in other organisations.

For more information, read the December 2015 PRC newsletter.

Social Impact Investing

The PRC hosted a forum at the Charles Perkins Centre on 4 November 2015, examining what social impact investing is, whether this type of investment has implications for health, and in particular for funding of disease prevention/health promotion activity.

For more information, read the December 2015 PRC newsletter.

Policy responses to obesity prevention in Australia - local to national progress

Co-Ops Collaboration PRC

On May 21st PRC co-hosted a one-day symposium at Deakin University in Melbourne with The Collaboration of Community-based Obesity Prevention Sites (CO-OPS Collaboration). The symposium was designed to provide an opportunity for Australian practitioners, policy advisors and researchers to:

  • reflect on the role of government and non-government sectors in obesity prevention in Australia
  • consider progress in obesity prevention by:
    -recapping the evidence base for effective interventions to promote (i) physical activity (ii) healthy eating (food policy environments)
    -reviewing data and approach to measurement in physical activity, healthy eating and healthy weight
    -exploring a current selection of national and local policy responses
  • identify take-home messages and next steps in advocacy and action for practitioners, policy advisors and researchers to strengthen obesity prevention in Australia
  • build and strengthen networks and collaboration to enhance obesity prevention practice, policy and research

Presenters included (from left) PRC members Debra Hector and Bill Bellew, and Megan Cobcroft, Andrew Milat and Michelle Maxwell.

Video-recordings of the symposium speakers and PowerPoint slides are available by clicking on the presenter's name: Melinda Bald, Bill Bellew, Melanie Chisholm, Megan Cobcroft, Elizabeth Flynn, Rohan Greenland, Debra Hector, Angela Hunt, Michelle Maxwell, Andrew Milat, Mel Nichols, Andrew Pengilley, Gary Sacks, Boyd Swinburn and Len Yeats.

New Strategies and Tools for Social Marketing Research & Practice

PRC co-hosted this colloquium on the State of the Art of Social Marketing and Mass Media for NCD Prevention with the Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney.

One of the keynote presentations, by Dr R Craig Lefebvre, can be seen in the video.

28:49 minutes Download video (mp4, 1148.23 Mb)

The PRC awarded University of Sydney grant for online course development

PRC members Professors Adrian Bauman, Bill Bellew, and Tim Gill and Dr Lina Engelen, along with colleagues from the CPC, were awarded a University of Sydney grant to develop an online course. The course in chronic disease prevention will cover all areas of non-communicable diseases. Building upon their two years of successful experience with a smaller online course in physical activity and exercise in noncommunicable disease prevention, the team hopes to have the course available by late 2015.

Dr Becky Freeman awarded NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

Dr Becky Freeman aims to strengthen the evidence-based application of new media for chronic disease prevention. Her project will analyse how new media can both enhance and threaten prevention programs and policies. The research focuses on three primary topics: 1) Online electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) promotions, 2) Online social network influences on food choices and physical activity levels and 3) New media platforms and tools to communicate and translate prevention research. Ultimately, the outcomes of the research will guide effective policy and program responses to reduce the incidence of chronic disease caused by tobacco use and poor diets.


New Website for WHO Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity Nutrition and Obesity (WHO CCPANO)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity was established in 2013 under the auspices of WHO's Head Office in Geneva to influence policy and public health work on chronic disease prevention globally. For more details please click here WHO CCPANO.

Move to CPC

CPC Building

In July 2014, PRC were excited to relocate to the splendid Charles Perkins Centre informally known as The Hub. This $385 million purpose-built facility will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the interconnectedness of our environment, our food and our health. Please see our brief snapshot of Charles Perkins and the Charles Perkins Centre by clicking on the picture of the CPC building.

Welcome to Justin Richards

The Prevention Research Collaboration (PRC) in the School of Public Health is delighted to welcome Dr Justin Richards, NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow (overseas).

Justin comes to the PRC from the NSW Ministry of Health where he worked as a Public Health Trainee in the Office of the Chief Health Officer and the Centre for Epidemiology & Evidence. Prior to this he completed a Doctorate and was employed as a researcher at the University of Oxford, UK. His research focuses on physical activity interventions and mental health outcomes in vulnerable youth and he has a particular interest in capacity building approaches in low-income countries. Justin has also previously interned at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva and is looking forward to contributing to the international agenda of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity recently established at the University of Sydney.

Welcome to visiting Fellow - Associate Professor Qiqiang He

Dr He

The Prevention Research Collaboration welcomes Visiting Fellow, Associate Professor Qiqiang He, from Wuhan University School of Public of Public where he is also Assistant Dean. A recipient of the Australian Endeavour Research Fellowship Dr He will spend the next 4-6 months building up research and teaching links in chronic disease prevention. Dr He research areas include environmental epidemiology, nutrition, obesity and mental health

Driving ourselves to ill health?

As little as two hours a day behind the wheel is a potential risk factor for a range of poor health behaviours and outcomes, a new study from the Prevention Research Collaboration has shown. Published in PLOS One journal, the study of nearly 40,000 Australians aged 47-75 years found that people who drive for two hours or more per day are more likely to smoke, to be obese, and to be less physically active.
As little as two hours a day behind the wheel is a potential risk factor for a range of poor health behaviours and outcomes, a new study from the Prevention Research Collaboration has shown. Published in PLOS One journal, the study of nearly 40,000 Australians aged 47-75 years found that people who drive for two hours or more per day are more likely to smoke, to be obese, and to be less physically active.
Lead author Dr Ding Ding, said that "The research also reveals that people who drive for two hours or more daily are more likely to be stressed, sleep-deprived, have poorer self-rated health and quality of life.
"We found a dose-response relationship between driving time and a clustering of health risk behaviours, particularly smoking, physical inactivity, and insufficient sleep. The more time people spent driving, the greater their odds of having poor health and risk factors for poor health".
People who drive more than two hours a day had 78% elevated risk of being obese, and 57% elevated risk of insufficient physical activity.
"The study's findings are relevant to middle aged and older people who drive on a daily basis, for any reason, not just professional drivers," Dr Ding said.
Elevated risks linked to driving two hours or more a day:
78% Obesity
57% Insufficient physical activity (less than 150 minutes per week)
86% Insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours a day)
43% Poor quality of life
33% Psychological distress
The observed link between driving time and health risks were independent of socioeconomic factors such as age, gender and education levels.
This cross-sectional study is amongst the first to examine the associations of driving time with a range of health behaviors and outcomes.
"Findings from the current study are consistent with some previous research that linked driving to cardio-metabolic health," says Dr Ding.
"However, further research is needed to confirm causality and to understand the mechanisms for the observed associations.
"This study highlights driving as a potential lifestyle risk factor for public health, and future lifestyle interventions and transportation planning initiatives may consider reducing driving time as a strategy for promoting health and well-being in the community".

New Study on weight of Australian Children

Nearly one in four New South Wales school children are overweight or obese according to a University of Sydney study reported in today's Medical Journal of Australia. The new finding is the latest from a series of three state-wide school surveys (1997, 2004 and 2010), providing a rolling snapshot of children's weight, physical activity and dietary behaviours. Beginning in 1997 when school survey data showed that one in five children were overweight or obese (20 per cent), prevalence peaked at 24 per cent in 2004 before dropping slightly to 23 per cent in 2010, according to the latest survey data. The study also reveals new information about diet, lifestyle and obesity among Aboriginal children. Conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes are more prevalent among Australian Aboriginal people but until now there's been limited data about diet, lifestyle or obesity among school-aged Aboriginal children.

The NSW Schools Physical Activity Nutrition Survey conducted in 2010 of more than 8,000 children reveals that nearly one in three aboriginal children are overweight or obese (29 per cent), compared to nearly one in four (23 per cent) among non-Aboriginal children. "Childhood is a period when education about healthy eating and physical activity is vital for establishing healthy practices in later years," says study co-author and University of Sydney public health expert, Dr Blythe O'Hara. "This is because childhood obesity predicts obesity in later life and raises people's risk for health problems such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes." Other key findings from the 2010 survey include:

  • Approximately 35 to 50 per cent of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children ate dinner in front of the television
  • Approximately 50 to 60 per cent of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children were rewarded for good behavior with sugary foods
  • Non-Aboriginal children were more likely to have breakfast every day (79 per cent compared to 70 per cent in Aboriginal children)
  • Non-Aboriginal children were less likely to exceed the daily recommended screen time (no more than 2 hours daily)
  • Overall, there was no significant difference in physical activity levels between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal children
  • Physical activity levels were higher among older children (grades 6-10) than younger children (grades K-4).

Temporal trends in weight and current weight-related behaviour of Australian Aboriginal school-aged children. Louise L Hardy, Blythe J O’Hara, Debra Hector, Lina Engelen and Sandra J Eades Med J Aust 2014; 200 (11): 667-671. doi: 10.5694/mja13.10614

2013 and earlier

Physical inactivity prevails 60 years after London Bus study

Prof. Bauman

Professor Bauman and the bus driver (photo from Canberra Times)

Professor Bauman gave the inaugural Jerry Morris Oration at a Heart Foundation breakfast at Parliament House on Friday. He called for a unified approach to combating the growing problem of inactivity, which people continue to ignore. "Physical inactivity causes as many deaths as does smoking,'' he said. ''Globally it causes 50 per cent more deaths than obesity, yet we don't fund physical inactivity strategies as much as we fund obesity prevention and tobacco prevention, so we need to get on the case," Professor Bauman said. View more details from here.

Dr Melody Ding received Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Dr Melody Ding has just received some wonderful news, her application for a University of Sydney Postdoctoral Research Fellowship has been successful. These fellowships are highly competitive and to have been successful is testament to Melody’s outstanding track record, exceptional skills and indeed her limitless potential.

Dr Louise Hardy wins ANPHA translational research awards

On 26 July, the winners of the ANPHA translational research awards were announced, Louise Hardy, with Andrew Milat (Ministry of Health), John Wiggers and Luke Wolfenden (Uni of Newcastle) and Karen Gilham (Hunter Local Health District) went down to Canberra representing the Good for Kids project and were announced as the winner! The Good for Kids project was a partnership between these three organisations and PANORG (who were responsible for the evaluation of the program) – and the award is a nice reflection of the considerable effort all parties put into the project. This is good news for NSW health promotion, and helps correct the national perceptions about significant community-based child obesity prevention projects! From PRC particular praise must go to Lou Hardy, Lesley King, Anne Grunseit and Adrian Bauman for all their work on this project. Many other people were involved at different stages, including Louise Baur, Tim Gill, Debra Hector, Vicki Flood, Kris, Tracie and numerous other biostats trainees, and moral support from everyone else.

The WHO Collaborating Centre was launched on 25 July

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity has been established under the auspices of WHO's Head Office in Geneva to influence policy and public health work on chronic disease prevention globally. In particular, the Centre will focus on physical activity promotion, public health nutrition, obesity prevention and diabetes prevention, and will work in developed and developing countries, as chronic disease is prevalent in most countries across the globe.

The Centre will be based within the University of Sydney's Boden Institute and Prevention Research Collaboration, and will be directed by Professors Adrian Bauman and Stephen Colagiuri from Sydney Medical School's School of Public Health, the Boden Institute and the University's Charles Perkins Centre.

A conference award for Professor Chris Rissel

At the recent Health Promotion Association conference Professor Chris Rissel was awarded a Life Membership at the Association’s Annual General Meeting. It says “for distinguished, meritorious and special service as a mature leader in health promotion in Australia and for the significant contribution to the purposes and objectives of the Association”.

Cultural differences in children's fight against fat

Dr Hector recently published her findings in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health with other academic staff from Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health. "Almost one in two low SES (Socioeconomic Status) boys from Asian (45 percent) and Middle-Eastern backgrounds (40 percent) were overweight or obese, compared with 25 percent of boys from English-speaking backgrounds. " The study was one of the first to look at both children's ethnic background and their socioeconomic status in combination."They need to reach, and be culturally appropriate for, children who are most at risk." Dr Hector said. View more details from here.

Kids drink 'alarming' levels of soft drink

A study led by Lana Hebden published in the current issue of Preventive Medicine, found that 24 per cent of the 8058 kids surveyed were drinking an "alarming" five or more cups of soft drink a week. "We also found students who drank soft drink with meals at home were almost 10 times as likely to be high consumers of these drinks." View more details from here.

Get out of your chair!

PRC director Professor Adrian Bauman talks in University Staff News on sitting less and moving more. The start of Semester One is a perfect time to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine, helping you to feel better during the day and, potentially, improving your long-term health. View more details from here.

"Walking to work in Sydney" is out now

After the report to analyse cycling to work in Sydney from 2001 to 2011, in March PRC just released a report about walking to work in Sydney in the same period. Please click here for the full report.

PRC annual report 2012 is out now

Annual report

PRC Annual Report 2012 is out now. In the last year PRC continued to make a significant contribution to prevention and population health research nationally and internationally. It not only outlines the PRC’s achievements in 2012, but also provides clear evidence of cross unit, faculty and institution research collaboration by PRC staff. View the report here.

Cycling to work in Sydney

The report entitled "Cycling to work in Sydney: analysis of journey-to-work Census data from 2001 to 2011" is just released. Please click here for the full report.

Health calls

Get Healthy

Funded by the NSW Ministry of Health, Professor Adrian Bauman and Dr Philayrath Phongsavan lead and conducted the evaluation of the free service, Get Healthy, with near 20,000 participants. It helps reduce chronic disease risk, especially for people from remote areas and from disadvantaged backgrounds. The interview can be seen at the University News. Please click here for Get Healthy evaulatuion report.

Rich pay packet, poor health

Poor health

Dr Alexis St.George recently published a paper on "Who should we target" in a health promotion survey that reached more than 3 million full and part-time workers in the state by occupation. They then assessed risk factors such as body mass, waist circumference, smoking and exercise levels for each group using Australian Bureau of Statistics and Census data. The key finding is that the a one-size-fits-all approach to health promotion was doomed to fail. More details can be seen at Sydney Morning Herald.

Governments should get behind bikes, and not just one day a year


Do you think riding to work is fun? Professor Chris Rissel articulates the importance of cycling to work. Australians are pretty enthusiastic about cycling for recreation. Cycling to work is another matter entirely. Arguably, cycle commuting is even more important than recreational riding: as well as the health benefits, cycle commuting helps with congestion and with reducing transport emissions. But it’s also a lot more controversial. More details are be found at The Conversation.

Junk food industry fails by its own ad standards

Junk food good food

Our study on food marketing shows that "The study of junk food advertising on free-to-air television found despite the introduction of two industry self-regulation pledges in 2009, the frequency of junk food ads remained unchanged from last year."
This paper was published this week in Public Health Nutrition is one of 2 studies featured in this Sydney Morning Herald article today, with Kathy Chapman as a spokesperson.

Sports sponsorship and kids' health: who are the real winners?

Food sponsorship

from The Conversation

Rona Macniven and Bridget Kelly both look into the impact of sports sponsorship on kids health. The adverse effect of junk food and alcohol sponsorship is an increased concern. This is featured in The Conversation.

Sweets for the sweetly behaved not helpful for children's weight

No to sweets

Cutting screen time and not rewarding children's good behaviour with sweets are among the steps parents could take to reduce overweight and obesity in children before they start school. The study, led by Dr Louise Hardy, published in the journal Preventive Medicine also showed many parents do not realise their children have a weight problem. See more from University's News. When she was asked in The Project how to form a good behaviour as a parent, she emphasized not to turn TV on especially during day time. Eating around the dinner table with TV off will avoid over eating. Breast feeding is also a good start for new parents. (Scroll through about 2/3 of the way to see Lou’s segment.)

Obesity is more than a health problem


Professor Louise Baur is the speaker on University's "What matters to you", an online forum for one of the most voted topics during the month. Professor Baur looks at the range of factors including food marketing, availability of low-cost foods, urban planning and public transport. She will be online to respond to comments on 12pm, Thursday 19 July.

Australian cycling boom? Nope - it's a myth

Cycling a

Professor Chris Rissel examines closely on the reports by the cycling industry that significant bicycles sales in Australia suggested a growth in cycling participation. He proposed that it represents a net decline in cycling along with the growth of population between 1986 and 2006. This paper was featured in University's news headline. View the news here.

Professor Chris Rissel awarded an ARC grant for his cycling infrastructure grant

We are delighted to congratulate Professor Chris Rissel, Associate Professor Stephen Greaves, Dr Li Ming Wen and Professor Anthony Capon who have been awarded $380,000 over four years for their project ‘The development and application of an evaluation framework to assess transport, health and economic impacts of new urban cycling infrastructure’. The partner organisations are National Heart Foundation of Australia, NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW Ministry of Health , City of Sydney Council, Premier's Council for Active Living. This project will develop and apply a more accurate and simpler approach to measure the impacts of new cycling infrastructure, than is currently available. This methodology will be applied to a new bicycle path to be built by the City of Sydney, demonstrating the full transport, environmental, health, and economic impacts on the community.

A new approach to obesity and diabetes treatments

CODCD book

Prevention Research Collaboration has contributed five articles to the new book, A modern epidemic - Expert perspectives on obesity and diabetes, produced by Charles Perkins Centre. More details are available at Publications.

Research to practice: application of an evidence-building framework to childhood obesity prevention initiatives in NSW

A new PRC publication uses a framework which distinguishes different types of evidence needed to guide policy and practice, to examine the evidence underpinning the current NSW Healthy Children Initiative.

Sitting Can Lead to An Early Death

28 March 2012

Dr Hidde Van Der Ploeg relates sedentary activities such as television watching and sitting to an early death.

This article is featured in Sydney Morning Herald.

Strengthening Prevention Policy Forum

9 March 2012
The Sydney Health Policy Network and the Prevention Research Collaboration sponsored this forum. The Proceedings will be available shortly.

Building solutions to protect children from unhealthy food and drink sport sponsorship

Sport sponsorship

8 December 2011
This report provides a summary of research on the scope of unhealthy food and drink sponsorship of children’s sport, the effect of this sponsorship on children sport sponsorship, and key recommendations relating to potential solutions to create healthier sponsorship arrangements. View Report

Repealing legislation would double cycling numbers

2 December 2011
A new survey of 600 adults in Sydney found that 23% said that they would ride a bicycle more if they did not have to wear a helmet. Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing people to wear bicycle helmets were repealed. View journal article

Too much screen time eating into playtime

21 November 2011
The 380-page report on the 2010 NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey was released today by the NSW Minister for Healthy Lifestyles, Kevin Humphries, and the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli. PANORG's Louise Hardy, the principal investigator of the survey, said the good news was that the proportion of children who were obese or overweight - 22.8 per cent - had not increased since the previous survey in 2004. Read the newspaper article.

Read the Full Report here Read the Short Report here

Broad range of prevention efforts need to target obesity in children

10 November 2011
Professor Louise Baur outlines the necessary approaches required for the effective prevention and treatment of obesity in children. Her article in The Conversation is a shorter version of an article that appears in the latest issue of Perspectives, an opinion-led journal published by Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Read the article here

Research calls for government funding to boost NSW cycling

12 October 2011
In the lead up to today's national Ride to Work Day, researchers from the University of Sydney are calling on the NSW government to increase its support for cycling. Read what PRC's Chris Rissel says here:

Research calls for government funding to boost NSW cycling
A chance for city cyclists to find the right balance between work and play
Try cycling on Ride to Work Day … it might change your life

The PRC has recently published a position statement on Cycling in NSW, which can be read here:
Cycling in NSW

Sitting workers face an early grave

29 September 2011
PRC researchers Adrian Bauman and Hidde van der Ploeg will present their findings that sitting down for long periods of time increases your risk of dying today at the annual meeting of the 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing health research project in the southern hemisphere. View the latest media reports, including an interview with Adrian, here:

Sitting workers face an early grave
Sitting workers face an early grave - study
Sitting down on the job may kill you