The value of prevention: childhood obesity early interventions



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Between the launch of the National Preventive Health Strategy and the National Obesity Strategy, Australia has never been better placed to address childhood obesity. Both strategies acknowledge one in four Australian children are living with overweight or obesity and that every $1 invested in obesity prevention has a return of up to $6.

With a renewed focus on promoting physical activity and healthy diets, further initiatives announced in the recent Federal Budget will also strengthen actions to reduce the impact of unhealthy food and drinks. Actions coming from the national strategies will build on much of the work achieved by leading researchers, practitioners and policymakers from Australia, New Zealand and England who have collaborated on the Centre of Research Excellence in Translating Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood (EPOCH-Translate CRE). The CRE is also a member of the Collaboration for Enhanced Research Impact (CERI) with the Prevention Centre.

The work of EPOCH has shown that obesity in the first few years of life is not benign, but associated with increased health care costs and poorer quality of life, highlighting the need for prevention interventions to start earlier in early childhood.

Professor Louise Baur AM, Director EPOCH-Translate CRE

In tracking the value of obesity prevention interventions in early childhood, EPOCH has found direct healthcare costs of children with obesity aged two to four years were 60% higher than those of children with a healthy weight.

Professor Baur said early childhood obesity prevention could deliver substantial and immediate healthcare expenditure savings if intervention effects were sustained.  We do, however, need more investment in obesity prevention interventions in early childhood that are rigorously evaluated to assess both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

“Healthy growth and development in the first few years of life are key to a healthy childhood, adolescence and adulthood,” she said. “If we support parents and carers in the important role of raising healthy young children, then we are helping to change trajectories of growth and promoting a healthier future. “

The value of prevention around childhood obesity can also be seen in other benefits including maximising quality of life and reducing health inequalities. Reducing prevalence of overweight or obesity and promotes healthy weight and healthy lifestyle behaviours through to adolescence 

Established in 2016, and now funded out to 2026, EPOCH has considerable world-leading policy and practice-relevant research to promote and support effective interventions, efficient resource allocation with implementation and scale up that demonstrate the value of prevention.