Growing up in Australia and New Zealand

Translational modelling to inform an evidence-based childhood obesity intervention agenda

Professor Cameron Grant
The 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? 

The rise in obesity is one of the most challenging health issues of our time. The WHO has highlighted that children are at the heart of solving this crisis, because prevention and treatment become less and less effective later in life.

Moreover, many well-meaning interventions inevitably fail – at great cost – when robust analysis of existing data could pinpoint where obesity efforts might have most (or least) impact.

 

What does this project hope to achieve?

Professor Cameron Grant, from the University of Auckland, will harness the power of two unique datasets, Growing up in New Zealand & Growing up in Australia.  Both have followed many thousands of children since babyhood, containing a wealth of repeated parent and child information on lifestyles, growth, and social and psychological wellbeing.

His team will model the potential impacts of successfully modifying different factors to reduce child obesity. They can also consider how these factors interact – for example, what would happen if children increased their activity by one hour per week, while also sleeping half an hour longer each night? The researchers will then run simulations for different starting BMIs at different ages.

This customisation of exposures/treatments and the ability to accurately model potential impact should accelerate the discovery of effective obesity treatment and prevention approaches for New Zealand children.