A world leading Geelong-based research group is showing the world how to win the fight against childhood obesity by working with local communities. “Our proven strategy is to empower the community to make a difference. We’ve found our model works, we have data showing success and our approach is now rolling out to help communities solve a variety of complex social problems including substance abuse, climate change, suicide and community health planning.
“The exciting thing is we’ve seen real change where the whole community is working together to tackle childhood obesity. These communities are taking the lead; http://www.seachangeportland.com.au http://www.genr8change.com. I want you to look them up, share their ideas and spread the great message.”
Ten years ago, Professor Steven Allender was working at Oxford University in the UK working on heart disease when he realised his real passion was to make a difference in the area of childhood obesity. He moved to Deakin University in Geelong permanently in 2013 as this was the place that worked with communities to help real, positive change happen. Of multiple attempts worldwide to prevent childhood obesity the most successful involved the team in Geelong. “We aim to empower the community by giving them the facts and tools to build their capacity to enable them to make change.”
Steve leads GLOBE, The Global Obesity Centre, at Deakin, which is also a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre. Steve and his team were instrumental in developing software that supports communities to take action and make a difference. We caught up with him and his two boys on the Bellarine Peninsula.
“Obesity is an extremely complex problem, with no single solution, but together, with people-power, acting on all areas of this complex issue, we can make a difference.
“The change becomes community-driven and as the community owns it, it works. Our model is to engage community leaders from schools, businesses, community groups, the healthcare sector, parents and to help these community leaders enlist the broader community to be part of the change. We support the community to map this complex problem using technology we made called STICKE. With this base the community generate hundreds of ideas for how they can contribute to make a difference which are then prioritised and enacted on by the community. Local agencies that have developed their skills as part of the process, then continue to support the community to maintain the momentum and grow the changes. Communities from around Australia and the world are joining together to lead home grown change. We are working with communities in NZ, Canada and across Europe and the world really is watching and learning from the communities in our region.
“There are so many examples of the communities making change, from health organisations removing sweet drinks from sale, provision of free sports equipment, schools exclusion drop off zones to increase walking, new community vegie gardens and building family cooking skills.
“On a personal note I still ask myself, ‘why isn’t Geelong the centre of the world? ….and then I realise the communities here are leading the world with this work!”
You can watch Steve’s Real Big Things talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPSIDHS8BiY
Steve will be speaking at the Humans in Geelong Expo on Sunday 7th October at Deakin Waterfront. The Expo runs from 10am – 3pm. Save the date!
Story: Jacqui Bennett Photo: Phil Hines