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Engaging families through primary health care to prevent childhood obesity

The key objective of this joint linkage and exchange fellowship was to develop a collaborative proposal to determine how to engage primary health care workers, parents and other child care providers in the promotion of healthy weight among young children, particularly within disadvantaged groups. To this end Dr. Lydia Hearn and Margaret Miller visited the UK, Canada and America to work with collaborators to:

  • Assess comparable barriers to engaging primary health care providers and patients in programs for the promotion of healthy weight;
  • Analyse new and promising methods for developing primary health care services that are user friendly;
  • Review processes for training and supporting primary health care providers in how to engage patients (parents);
  • Compare models for building working partnerships between public/voluntary sectors and national/state health services; and
  • Assess the practical implications of implementing such policies to promote healthy weight particularly with regards to engaging disadvantaged groups.

The focus of the international fellowship was to compare and contrast the development and implementation of policy and programs to engage primary health care services with parents and other carers to prevent childhood obesity in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. The findings indicated that given the highly complex nature of the issue, and the fact that it covers a number of jurisdictions (health, education, family and community services, social environment, etc.) it was clear that decision makers required different types of evidence (process, impact, feasibility, cost effectiveness, etc) to make informed decisions on how best to address these barriers. Moreover, given the lack of “excellent” evidence, based on randomised controlled trials, the study indicated a need for a methodology that assessed the quality of programs based on “best available evidence”, highlighting “promising” programs and their relevance in different settings and contexts.

The key outcome was the successful development of the Starting Childhood Obesity Prevention Earlier (SCOPE) project, with funding from Healthway, involving the collaboration of researchers in the UK and Canada. A major presentation of these finding were presented to key stakeholders at the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

Project Duration


Funding Body

ANU Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) & The Department of Health and Ageing


For further information about this project please contact Dr Lydia Hearn at


Dr Lydia Hearn
Mrs Margaret Miller

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