Why study children's nutrition and physical activity?
Preventing the development of obesity in children is an international health priority. Overweight in early childhood is determined in part by eating, physical activity and sedentary behaviours, learnt at home in the first five years of life. The InFANT Extend Program was designed to enhance the evidence base by extending the intervention time of the Melbourne InFANT Program. Childhood provides a limited opportunity to establish lifestyle behaviours that promote health. The InFANT Extend Program is based on the principals that:
- behaviours are established early in life;
- caregivers play a primary role in shaping these behaviours during infancy;
- intervening before parents begin to shape these behaviours (using an anticipatory guidance framework) is likely to be effective.
Why first-time parents?
We know parents want to provide the best start for their babies, but sometimes need help with this - babies don't come with a "how to" manual! We have designed a program to help parents provide their babies with the best start to healthy eating and active play. The program is delivered by a facilitator over six sessions with first-time parents' group, and provides advice and support that is relevant to the changing needs of growing babies.
We also know that first-time parents may be particularly receptive to knowledge and skill development around parenting and the promotion of healthy family eating and physical activity behaviours, and are actively seeking this information.
- Unhealthy life style choices have numerous negative impacts on children's health and wellness.
- Patterns of behaviour established in early childhood are evident well into adulthood.
- Treatment is difficult and costly.
- Opportunities for prevention are poorly understood, while of paramount importance.
- There is an urgent need to develop successful interventions that target behaviours from their inception in infancy.
The InFANT Extend Program aims to test the effectiveness of a childhood healthy eating and active play intervention delivered to first-time parents and focused on parenting skills that support the development of positive diet, physical activity and low-level sedentary behaviours from infancy. The study also aims to extend findings from the Melbourne InFANT program by assessing the impact of an additional low-dose intervention provided until children three and a half years of age.
Who is taking part?
Recruitment into the InFANT Extend Program concluded in July 2012. Approximately 550 first-time parents and their young infants are taking part. These babies were about 3 months of age at recruitment and live in local government areas in and around Geelong and Melbourne, Victoria.
What was required from participants?
Participants who joined the InFANT Extend Program were required to:
- sign a consent form to accept participation in the project;
- complete a survey, with questions about their baby, family and themselves, at the beginning, middle and end of the project. They also received a small gift at the completion of each survey in thanks of their time and contribution;
- talk to a researcher for 15 minutes on the phone about what their baby ate the day before at 3 times,, each at the middle and end of the project;
- have their baby's weight and length measured at the beginning, middle and end of the project, and have their baby's waist measured at the end of the project;
- fit an accelerometer on their child at the end of the project, to measure their child's physical activity levels.
Enrolled first-time parents' group were randomly placed into either the 'Program Group' or the 'Newsletter Group'.
Parents in the 'Program Group' attend six 2-hour sessions delivered by an experienced facilitator at three monthly intervals. These sessions provide advice and support to promote healthy eating, active play and reduced sedentary behaviour. They will also receive quarterly tailored newsletters, and monthly texts until their child is three and a half years old.
Parents in the 'Newsletter Group' received six newsletters at 3 monthly intervals on generic child development issues relevant to the child’s age until children are three and a half years old.
How is this Project funded?
This study has been funded by the World Cancer Research Fund International. The project is supported be Deakin University and The Royal Children's Hospital. Ethics approval was obtained from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Deakin University.