Queensland families can sign up to a free government-funded healthy lifestyle program being run state-wide from April that can potentially transform their lives and which offers a fresh start following the Easter holidays.
The PEACH (Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health) program was created in response to rising rates of childhood obesity in Queensland.
The program is being offered for the first time on the Gold Coast, as well as in Ipswich, Mackay, Gympie, Bundaberg and Ingham while it returns to Gladstone, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Toowoomba, Redcliffe, South Brisbane and North Brisbane. It will also be available to families in Roma, St George and Charleville.
PEACH was launched in September 2013 and more than 250 Queensland families have taken part so far.
Families with a child between 5-11 years whose weight is above a healthy range for their age and gender are eligible for the program.
Program director and head of QUT's Exercise and Nutrition Sciences School, Professor Lynne Daniels, said the response to the program so far has been encouraging and indicated a genuine need for this type of community service.
"We currently have a number of PEACH program groups running across the state and we're thrilled to be expanding the service in regional areas," Professor Daniels said.
"We hear parents say they are so relieved to be able to access this professional help because often they don't know where to begin.
"Acknowledging that their child may be overweight and then figuring out what to do about it can be very confronting."
Professor Daniels said if a parent thinks their child might be overweight they should go to their GP to have them weighed and measured as part of a standard health check or go directly to the PEACH website.
"Just like having a regular eye test, measuring a child's height and weight is part of tracking their growth and general health," she said.
"Parents should not feel guilty if they think their child is overweight, but they do need to make change in their family's lifestyle which is where the PEACH Program can help.
"By taking a parent-led approach, the program ensures that children are not stigmatised but that healthy change is made at a family level and therefore the benefits are there for all."
The program runs for 6 months and consists of 10 group sessions that run for 90 minutes each. The first 9 sessions are held weekly within the school term. Ongoing individualised family support is offered through the second half of the program ending with one final group session.
Some of the topics covered include nutrition skills, relationships with food and eating, changing family lifestyle behaviours and making healthy eating affordable. While the parent sessions are taking place, children enjoy active play with a trained child physical activity facilitator.
Families can contact the PEACH program on free call 1800 263 519 or register directly at www.peachqld.com.au
•The PEACH™ program is evidence-based, internationally recognised and meets current guidelines and recommendations.
•Research shows that the program works. It has been evaluated as effective in a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)-funded trial the results of which were published in 2011 in Pediatrics, the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
•In Australia, overweight and obesity rates in children has doubled over the past 30 years and in 2011-2012 in Queensland, one in four children is above their healthy weight.
Amanda Weaver, QUT Media, 07 3138 9449, firstname.lastname@example.org
After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901.