The Infant Feeding Activity and Nutrition (Infant) Program

Behaviours that promote unhealthy weight gain over the life course are acquired during early childhood and stay with us into adulthood. Few interventions however focus on the first 1000 days when dietary, physical activity and sedentary behaviours are being established. The Infant Program addresses this research-to-practice gap through the trial, dissemination and implementation of a low dose efficacious program delivered through family-focused health services.

About the study

The Infant Program was originally tested through a cluster randomised control trial. Using existing new parent groups established by Victoria’s universal Maternal and Child Health services, first-time parents were offered six 2-hour sessions when their infants were aged 3, 6, 9 ,12, 15 and 18 months. Sessions focusing on anticipatory guidance-based parental knowledge, skills, and social support around infant feeding, diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviours to encourage healthy habits from the very start of life.

The program achieved high acceptance and uptake. Child outcomes post-intervention showed children watched 25% less television, consumed 25% fewer sweet snacks and had improved dietary quality; and children of younger or less educated mothers drank more water and ate more vegetables.Maternal outcomes included decreased consumption of high energy snack/processed and high fat foods; and significant improvements in knowledge of child feeding messages, intentional modelling of healthy eating, self-efficacy, and important feeding practices to promote healthy eating. Follow-up data of participants 2 and 3.5y post interventionhas confirmed beneficial maternal and child outcomes for these children through to 5 years of age.

In 2013 the Infant Program was selected by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Healthy Together Victoria (HTV) Initiative which facilitated small scale community implementation, and the training of over 100 program facilitators. Qualitative research assessing small scale implementation and engagement highlighted many real world challenges experienced by services, informing enhancements to program training and administration, and the integration of social media platforms.

This research has been funded through two NHMRC Project Grants and a World Cancer Research Fund Grant.

Research continues through the Centre of Research Excellence in Early Prevention of Obesity in Childhood (EPOCH). State-wide implementation of the Infant Program is currently being planned, including effectiveness and cost-effectiveness evaluation. This ‘at scale” implementation at a population level will engage multiple community, local government and state-level stakeholders, with a focus on the reorientation of health service capacity to embed implementation into routine practice.

Visit the Infant Program website for more information

This study was one of the first of its kind to begin at such a young age. It provides invaluable insights into early childhood health behaviours and continues now to help parents provide their children with a healthy start to life.

Professor Karen Campbell & Associate Professor Kylie Hesketh

CO-INVESTIGATORS

The research team

The Infant Program research team is led by Professor Karen Campbell and Associate Professor Kylie Hesketh, with members of Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition.