‘Respond’ing to kids’ health

By Seymour Telegraph

Mitchell Shire is one of the 12 local government areas across the region involved in a whole-of-community approach to help children eat well and stay active.

According to recent local surveys in schools and with parents, just nine per cent of children are eating enough vegetables and 75 per cent are active enough.

Deakin University will partner with communities and local health services to make the healthy choice the easiest choice.

The initiative — called RESPOND — will invite community members to map what affects children’s eating and activity behaviours in their area, everything from access to sugary drinks to the availability of safe bike paths.

They will then be supported during the next five years to drive practical changes to create a healthier environment, reaching more than 30000 children in 116 schools from the 12 shires.

Ultimately, the aim is to see the practical changes become the new norm, so children’s health continues to benefit beyond the five years.

Changes can range from big to small. They could include the ways organisations allocate funding, removal of sugary drinks from community facilities, establishing park runs or introducing healthy options at school canteens and sports clubs.

This community-led model has been so successful in improving children’s health in other areas of Victoria, there is a waiting list of communities across the world wanting to get involved.

The approach requires an army of community members making lots of changes where we work, live, learn and play. From councillors, teachers and parents to sports coaches — all community members have a role to play in improving our children’s health.

RESPOND is supported by Seymour Health.

‘‘Seymour Health is pleased to partner in this innovative project which builds community capacity in response to factors leading to the chronic health issues prevalent in the Lower Hume region and specifically in Seymour,’’ Seymour Health chief executive Chris McDonnell said.