Strengthening the evidence for childhood obesity strategies

Project title: Policy and practice in managing childhood obesity: Implementation case studies in Queensland and NSW

This project is finished. Click on the image to read the Findings Brief.

What is the issue?

The World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (2016) lists identification and treatment of children and adolescents already affected by obesity as one of its three overarching goals. A multi-sectoral approach is required for preventing and managing existing childhood obesity. The report recommends the provision of family-based, multi-component, lifestyle weight management services for obese children and young people. Policies and supportive systems are needed to drive and facilitate these family-focused interventions, but we don’t know enough about the relative importance of various systemic factors in the context of the Australian health care system

How did the project address the issue?

This project explored systemic factors in two health care environments and to provide recommendations on what is required for successful implementation and outcomes.

Using a case study approach, the project investigated the enablers and barriers to successful implementation of childhood overweight and obesity management strategies using the experiences of implementing evidence-based programs in Queensland and NSW.

The project:

  • Documented the development and implementation of the two statewide programs
  • Described and analysed the influence of health care and other related systems and structures on the delivery of two state-based community childhood overweight and obesity group intervention strategies
  • Explored the relative contribution (facilitators and barriers) to successful implementation and sustainability of interventions
  • Developed a broader consultation framework, consisting of a series of questions to take to other health jurisdictions as well as other key stakeholders (public and private) to enhance the available information on implementation factors affecting childhood overweight and obesity prevention and management
  • Informed the development of policy guidelines, particularly key roles and responsibilities of health care service providers and funders.

What were the outcomes?

The project found that childhood overweight and obesity management programs will only succeed long term if they are embedded into the health care system. Without a clear position in the health care system – whether as prevention, treatment or part of universal health care – programs are vulnerable to external factors such as changes in government, funding priorities and philosophical differences.

The project recommended changes to policy and associated supportive structural requirements. These recommendations are expected to inform policies targeting the provision of accessible evidence-based interventions and associated training of relevant professionals to deliver these interventions. The findings from this project can inform further work to embed the management of childhood overweight and obesity as part of usual care in the health system in Australia with a clear mandate for health service provision.

Relevance for practice

The project report laid the foundation for broader consultation with other jurisdictions involved in childhood obesity secondary prevention and management and other potential stakeholders, both public and private.

Through an analysis of the complex and dynamic influences affecting the implementation of programs, a stronger evidence base was built to:

  • Identify factors that influence and help predict success in implementation endeavours
  • Guide the adaptation and scaling up of programs to better suit the implementation environment
  • Inform policy development regarding childhood obesity secondary prevention and management.

Project start date: December 2015

Project end date: October 2016


Project lead:

Dr Helen Vidgen, Queensland University of Technology

Project officer:

Dr Penny Love, Deakin University.

Project team:

  • Professor Lynne Daniels, Queensland University of Technology
  • Professor Louise Baur AM, University of Sydney
  • Debbie Croydon, Queensland University of Technology
  • Dr Jacqueline Miller, Flinders University
  • Professor Chris Rissel, NSW Ministry of Health
  • Ms Christine-Innes Hughes, NSW Ministry of Health
  • Ms Judy Nean, Queensland Department of Health
  • Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke, Prevention Centre

This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

This project has now been completed. Its key findings include:

  • The long-term success of childhood obesity interventions is being threatened because obesity management and prevention are not integrated into routine care in the Australian health system
  • Program implementation has been hampered by the way prevention activities are conceptualised and funded in different states
  • The capacity and the framework to implement the child obesity programs was different in NSW and Queensland
  • Universal availability of childhood obesity management programs should be a health priority area.





  • Development of Childhood Obesity Services Symposium ANZOS. Managing childhood obesity: is it prevention, treatment or universal child health and why does it matter? Learnings from the implementation of two statewide programmes. October 2016.  Brisbane. Chair: Helen Vidgen
  • Love P, Vidgen H, Daniels L, Innes-Hughes C,  Rissel C, Nean J, Innes-Walker K and Baur L. What are the implementation barriers and enablers for childhood obesity management services? ANZOS 2016 Childhood Obesity Services Symposium. October 2016, Brisbane.