Saving people from themselves

swimming4The fundamental ‘disconnect’ between the public’s awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and putting it into practice was explored at a conference this month to launch a new Flinders University healthy lifestyles research group.

Associate Professor Murray Drummond, Chair of the new Sport, Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) group, said national and international experts who took part in the conference discussed ways of improving ‘health literacy’ in the community.

“We’re finding that people are aware that we should be leading healthier lifestyles; that we should be looking at our nutrition; that we should be trying to do greater levels of physical activity. But people lead very busy lives and they struggle to act upon it,” Associate Professor Drummond said.

“This is what the concept of health literacy is about: how people gather health information, how they interpret it and how they act upon it,” he said.

Associate Professor Drummond said the conference, held at Flinders University’s Bedford Park campus, was an ideal springboard for SHAPE, which has a special focus on healthy lifestyles for children and brings together researchers in physical education, body image and nutrition.

“One of the aims of SHAPE is to examine the latest healthy lifestyle programs here and abroad, how they are implemented and to assess which are the most effective,” Associate Professor Drummond said.

“The research group will draw together academics, researchers, practitioners and policy makers in a holistic approach to improving health and wellbeing of adults and children alike,” he said.

“That means addressing some of the ‘big picture’ issues such as investigating the links between obesity, sedentary lifestyles and socioeconomic status, but also everyday, practical concerns such as healthy school canteens and teaching children healthy habits through games.”

Derek Colquhoun, Professor of Urban Learning at the UK’s University of Hull, who led the evaluation of Shape Up Europe, a three-year project that aimed to address the determinants of childhood obesity in 20 cities across Europe, delivered the conference’s keynote address.

Other guest speakers included Associate Professor Jenny O’Dea from the University of Sydney, and Mark Williams from SA Health.

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