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Hunter New England Local Health District

  • Translational Research Grants Scheme
Date Funded:
  • 14 May, 2018
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Luke Wolfenden

Preventing childhood obesity is a NSW Premiers’ Priority. Children consume a third of their daily energy intake at school. Much of the food packed in student lunchboxes, however, is energy-dense and nutrient poor. As such, improving the nutritional quality of school lunchboxes is a World Health Organisation, national and NSW priority to avert unhealthy weight gain. Although there has been significant investment in obesity prevention in schools, there has been little change in the nutritional quality of foods packed in children’s lunchboxes, impeding the achievement of NSW obesity prevention targets.

The primary impediment to current approaches to improving foods packed for children is an inability to effectively reach parents. Online communication platforms used by schools to communicate with parents exist in 62 per cent of NSW schools and are regularly used by 72 per cent of parents. Such technological infrastructure provides an opportunity to deliver obesity prevention interventions direct to parents at-scale, with high fidelity and at low cost. We have partnered with the leading provider of an online school communication platform in NSW (accessing 1550 schools and approximately 465,000 children) to develop and pilot a healthy lunchbox intervention delivered via this modality. Pilot findings demonstrated the intervention is feasible and acceptable to principals, teachers and parents and suggests it may be effective in reducing the energy content of lunchboxes. The primary aim of this study is to assess, via a randomised controlled trial, the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an intervention that makes use of an existing online communication provider to improve the kilojoule content from discretionary foods and drinks packed in a child’s lunchbox. If effective, partnering local health districts have committed to facilitating dissemination across their district. The application has the clear potential for statewide translation by the Office of Preventive Health, a study partner.

Collaborators: Office for Preventive Health, SkoolBag, Mid North Coast Local Health District, Central Coast Local Health District, NSW Department of Education