Monitoring and evaluation

Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition

Our monitoring and evaluation research aims to develop methods and gather high quality information to better understand overweight, obesity and associated risk factors. These data are necessary to inform policy and practice, and to evaluate large scale community, policy and natural experiments aimed at promoting healthy weight.

Australia currently lacks the routine and high quality, high coverage data collections that are required to understand the trends and inequalities of overweight, obesity and related risk factors including physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Our work seeks to address these gaps, including through development and application of innovative methods.

Given the high and inequitably distributed prevalence of unhealthy weight in Australia, better monitoring and evaluation data are needed to:

  • inform policy development
  • allocate services to communities
  • identify populations at increased risk
  • understand the progress so far in halting or reversing the rise in obesity.

Recent work has identified widening inequalities in overweight and obesity among young children in Victoria, as well as urban-rural inequalities in children’s physical activity environments. We have also evaluated large community-based interventions to promote healthy weight, and are currently collating, harmonising and meta-analysing the evaluation data as part of NHMRC Ideas grant ‘PRECIS’.

Our research focuses on:

  • establishing high quality monitoring systems for both primary and secondary school children
  • developing new methodologies to the collection of anthropometric and risk factor data among populations
  • evaluating community-based interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity.
  • PRECIS: PRecision Evidence for Childhood obesity prevention InterventionS

    PRECIS will bring together the best international evidence around complex community-based interventions to prevent child and adolescent obesity. The project has been funded by the NHMRC Ideas scheme for 4 years (2021–2024).

    Gathering a unique dataset of 20 diverse community-based obesity prevention interventions from Australia, New Zealand, USA and across the Pacific region, the aims of PRECIS are to:

    • identify and validate combinations of individual, community and intervention characteristics in community-based obesity prevention interventions that most strongly predict intervention effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. Methods will include both machine learning and epidemiological analysis.
    • identify and quantify the broader impacts (co-benefits) of community-based obesity prevention and the impact of these additional benefits on cost-effectiveness estimates
    • establish an international knowledge translation and exchange network for community-based obesity prevention.

    Learn more about PRECIS.

  • RESPOND (Reflexive Evidence and Systems interventions to Prevent Obesity and Non-communicable Disease)

    The RESPOND Ovens Murray and Goulburn Health Behaviours Monitoring Study is one of Australia’s largest measured and high participatory opt-out childhood obesity and risk factor surveillance system among primary school children. In 2019 and 2022 (delayed due to COVID-19), students in grades 2, 4 and 6 from all primary schools across the 12 local government areas (LGAs) of the Ovens Murray and Goulburn region were invited to participate.

    This project is funded by a NHMRC Partnership Project grant for 5 years (2018–2023) and involves cross-discipline collaboration across health and education.

    Our aims include:

    • collecting representative data on the prevalence of healthy weight, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, diet quality, sleep sufficiency and health-related quality of life among primary school children and their school environments
    • providing high participatory and measured health outcome data to local councils, health services, the Victorian Department of Health and the Victorian Department of Education and Training on the prevalence of risk behaviours among primary school children across the region
    • evaluating the impact of the RESPOND community-based systems intervention on children’s health and wellbeing.
  • WHO STOPS (Whole of System Trial of Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity)

    In Australia, approximately one in four school children live with overweight or obesity. It is estimated that obesity costs the economy around $21 billion annually in direct health and indirect cost among adults. Childhood and adolescence are critical windows for obesity prevention, as childhood obesity largely persists into adulthood, as do health behaviours established during early life including diet and physical activity.

    Monitoring overweight and obesity is crucial in Australia and internationally to analyse prevailing trends, pinpoint existing and widening disparities, facilitate interventions and shape policies. Presently, Australia lacks a systematic and highly participatory routine monitoring system at the local, state, and national levels among school-children. This stands in contrast to numerous other countries and states such as England, several U.S. states, Singapore, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Recognizing the need for regular and comprehensive monitoring, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has emphasized the necessity for behavioural and environmental risk factor monitoring.

    In 2015, after receiving a Western Alliance Grants In-Aid award, the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition team (GLOBE) at Deakin University alongside community partners, set to establish Australia’s largest measured childhood obesity surveillance system that employed an opt-out approach to student recruitment. This surveillance system covered the six local government areas (LGA) including five within the Great South Coast region (Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Moyne, Warrnambool, Corangamite) and the Colac Otway Shire, herein collectively referred to as ‘the region’. Measurement in 2017 and 2019 were funded through an NHMRC Partnership Project Grant.

    Download the Regional Child Health Behaviours and Monitoring Report (2015-2019): Southwest Victoria