See how they grow: Developing and trialling an interactive Child Growth Chart for NZ children

Gayl Humphrey
University of Auckland

In 2017, Cure Kids collaborated on a joint, contestable funding round with The National Science Challenge, A Better Start. The aim of the partnership was to fund high-quality, mission-led research focused on child and youth well-being, specifically in the areas of childhood obesity, early literacy and learning, mental health problems, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In July, 2017, ten projects were funded across the four specific areas.

What is the problem and who does it affect?

Prevalence of obesity in New Zealand children is following a worrying trend, with rates having doubled since the late 1970s in both boys and girls. There are vast disparities between ethnicities, with Maori and Pasifika children disproportionately affected. Children in deprived areas are also overrepresented in the statistics.

The long-term implications of obesity will serve to perpetuate the inequities in health outcomes among ethnicities, as well as those in more deprived environments.

The issue of obesity, and its associated causes, is one of great complexity. The disparities in figures suggest there are environmental and behavioural issues at play. While there are a number of challenges that require solutions, filling gaps in health literacy might be one of the easiest to address.

 

What does this project hope to achieve? 

Gayl Humphrey, from the University of Auckland, is being supported to create an interactive growth chart that could facilitate better health literacy among parents, while encouraging greater engagement around monitoring their children’s eating, activity, sleeping and related behaviours.

The research will harness the ubiquity of smart phones to help enhance the promotion of health in New Zealand. The project team understands that just having health-promoting information is not enough to ensure people access and retain it. A more tailored approach will help with uptake and will hopefully improve parent’s knowledge of their child’s growth, while encouraging positive and healthy behaviour.

The look and feel of the app will be developed in conjunction with the end-users through a series of focus groups and interviews. This will facilitate successful adoption of the app by those most in need.

Once the app is refined, the team will undertake a randomised controlled trial, the gold-standard in clinical trials, to assess its effectiveness.