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Government policy guidance in Victoria, Australia, encourages schools to provide affordable, healthy foods in canteens. This study analysed the healthiness and price of items available in canteens in Victorian primary schools and associations with school characteristics.
Dietitians classified menu items (main, snack and beverage) using the red, amber and green traffic light system defined in the Victorian government’s School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy. This system also included a black category for confectionary and high sugar content soft drinks which should not be supplied. Descriptive statistics and regressions were used to analyse differences in the healthiness and price of main meals, snacks and beverages offered, according to school remoteness, sector (government and Catholic/independent) size, and socio-economic position.
State of Victoria, Australia
A convenience sample of canteen menus drawn from three previous obesity prevention studies in forty-eight primary schools between 2016 and 2019.
On average, school canteen menus were 21 % ‘green’ (most healthy – everyday), 53 % ‘amber’ (select carefully), 25 % ‘red’ (occasional) and 2 % ‘black’ (banned) items, demonstrating low adherence with government guidelines. ‘Black’ items were more common in schools in regional population centres. ‘Red’ main meal items were cheaper than ‘green’% (mean difference –$0·48 (95 % CI –0·85, –0·10)) and ‘amber’ –$0·91 (–1·27, –0·57)) main meal items. In about 50 % of schools, the mean price of ‘red’ main meal, beverages and snack items were cheaper than ‘green’ items, or no ‘green’ alternative items were offered.
In this sample of Victorian canteen menus, there was no evidence of associations of healthiness and pricing by school characteristics except for regional centres having the highest proportion of ‘black’ (banned) items compared with all other remoteness categories examined. There was low adherence with state canteen menu guidelines. Many schools offered a high proportion of ‘red’ food options and ‘black’ (banned) options, particularly in regional centres. Unhealthier options were cheaper than healthy options. More needs to be done to bring Victorian primary school canteen menus in line with guidelines.
In 2015, the Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership launched a 4-year multifaceted salt reduction intervention designed to reduce salt intake by 1 g/d in children and adults living in Victoria, Australia. Child-relevant intervention strategies included a consumer awareness campaign targeting parents and food industry engagement seeking to reduce salt levels in processed foods. This study aimed to assess trends in salt intake, dietary sources of salt and discretionary salt use in primary schoolchildren pre- and post-delivery of the intervention.
Repeated cross-sectional surveys were completed at baseline (2010–2013) and follow-up (2018–2019). Salt intake was measured via 24-h urinary Na excretion, discretionary salt use behaviours by self-report and sources of salt by 24-h dietary recall. Data were analysed with multivariable-adjusted regression models.
Children aged 4–12 years
Complete 24-h urine samples were collected from 666 children at baseline and 161 at follow-up. Mean salt intake remained unchanged from baseline (6·0; se 0·1 g/d) to follow-up (6·1; 0·4 g/d) (P = 0·36), and there were no clear differences in the food sources of salt and at both time points approximately 70 % of children exceeded Na intake recommendations. At follow-up, 14 % more parents (P = 0·001) reported adding salt during cooking, but child use of table salt and inclusion of a saltshaker on the table remained unchanged.
These findings show no beneficial effect of the Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership intervention on children’s salt intake. More intensive, sustained and coordinated efforts between state and federal stakeholders are required.
Childhood obesity prevention is critical to reducing the health and economic burden currently experienced by the Australian economy. System science has emerged as an approach to manage the complexity of childhood obesity and the ever-changing risk factors, resources and priorities of government and funders. Anecdotally, our experience suggests that inflexibility of traditional research methods and dense academic terminology created issues with those working in prevention practice. Therefore, this paper provides a refined description of research-specific terminology of scale-up, fidelity, adaptation and context, drawing from community-based system dynamics and our experience in designing, implementing and evaluating non-linear, community-led system approaches to childhood obesity prevention.
We acknowledge the importance of using a practice lens, rather than purely a research design lens, and provide a narrative on our experience and perspectives on scale-up, fidelity, context and adaptation through a practice lens.
Practice-based researcher experience and perspectives.
Practice-based researchers highlighted the key finding that community should be placed at the centre of the intervention logic. This allowed communities to self-organise with regard to stakeholder involvement, capacity, boundary identification, and co-creation of actions implemented to address childhood obesity will ensure scale-up, fidelity, context and adaptation are embedded.
We need to measure beyond primary anthropometric outcomes and focus on evaluating more about implementation, process and sustainability. We need to learn more from practitioners on the ground and use an implementation science lens to further understand how actions work. This is where solutions to sustained childhood obesity prevention will be found.
There is limited research on community-based mental health interventions in former Soviet countries despite different contextual factors from where most research has been conducted. Ongoing military conflict has resulted in many displaced persons and veterans and their families with high burdens of mental health problems. Lack of community-based services and poor uptake of existing psychiatric services led to the current trial to determine the effectiveness of the common elements treatment approach (CETA) on anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTS) among conflict affected adults in Ukraine.
We conducted a three-armed randomized-controlled trial of CETA delivered in its standard form (8–12 sessions), a brief form (five-sessions), and a wait-control condition. Eligible participants were displaced adults, army veterans and their adult family members with elevated depression and/or PTS and impaired functioning. Treatment was delivered by community-based providers trained in both standard and brief CETA. Outcome data were collected monthly.
There were 302 trial participants (n = 117 brief CETA, n = 129 standard CETA, n = 56 wait-controls). Compared with wait-controls, participants in standard and brief CETA experienced clinically and statistically significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and PTS and dysfunction (effect sizes d = 0.46–1.0–6). Comparing those who received standard CETA with brief CETA, the former reported fewer symptoms and less dysfunction with small-to-medium effect sized (d = 0.20–0.55).
Standard CETA is more effective than brief CETA, but brief CETA also had significant effects compared with wait-controls. Given demonstrated effectiveness, CETA could be scaled up as an effective community-based approach.
Higher intakes of Na may contribute to weight gain. The primary aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the relationship between dietary Na intake and measures of adiposity in children and adults. Given the previous link between Na intake and the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), which are a known risk factor for obesity, a secondary aim examining the relationship between Na intake and SSB consumption was assessed. A systematic literature search identified cross-sectional and longitudinal studies and randomised controlled trials (RCT) which reduced dietary Na (≥3 months). Meta-analysis was performed for outcomes with ≥3 studies. Cross-sectionally higher Na intakes were associated with overweight/obesity in adults (five studies; n 11 067; OR 1·74; 95 % CI 1·43, 2·13) and in children (three studies; n 3625, OR 3·29; 95 % CI 2·25, 4·80), and abdominal obesity (five studies; n 19 744; OR 2·04; 95 % CI 1·72, 2·42) in adults. Overall, associations remained in sensitivity analyses which adjusted for energy. Findings from longitudinal studies were inconsistent. RCT in adults indicated a trend for lower body weight on reduced-Na compared with control diets (fifteen studies; n 5274; −0·29 kg; 95 % CI −0·59, 0·01; P = 0·06); however, it is unclear if energy intakes were also altered on reduced-Na diets. Among children higher Na intakes were associated with higher intake of SSB (four studies, n 10 329, b = 22, 16 and 26 g/d); no studies were retrieved for adults. Overall, there was a lack of high-quality studies retrieved. While cross-sectional evidence indicates Na intake was positively associated with adiposity, these findings have not been clearly confirmed by longitudinal studies or RCT.
In Victoria, Australia, a statewide salt reduction partnership was launched in 2015. The aim was to measure Na intake, food sources of Na (level of processing, purchase origin) and discretionary salt use in a cross-section of Victorian adults prior to a salt reduction initiative. In 2016/2017, participants completed a 24-h urine collection (n 338) and a subsample completed a 24-h dietary recall (n 142). Participants were aged 41·2 (sd 13·9) years, and 56 % were females. Mean 24-h urinary excretion was 138 (95 % CI 127, 149) mmol/d for Na. Salt equivalent was 8·1 (95 % CI 7·4, 8·7) g/d, equating to about 8·9 (95 % CI 8·1, 9·6) g/d after 10 % adjustment for non-urinary losses. Mean 24-h intake estimated by diet recall was 118 (95 % CI 103, 133) mmol/d for Na (salt 6·9 (95 % CI 6·0, 7·8 g/d)). Leading dietary sources of Na were cereal-based mixed dishes (12 %), English muffins, flat/savoury/sweet breads (9 %), regular breads/rolls (9 %), gravies and savoury sauces (7 %) and processed meats (7 %). Over one-third (38 %) of Na consumed was derived from discretionary foods. Half of all Na consumed came from ultra-processed foods. Dietary Na derived from foods was obtained from retail stores (51 %), restaurants and fast-food/takeaway outlets (28 %) and fresh food markets (9 %). One-third (32 %) of participants reported adding salt at the table and 61 % added salt whilst cooking. This study revealed that salt intake was above recommended levels with diverse sources of intake. Results from this study suggest a multi-faceted salt reduction strategy focusing on the retail sector, and food reformulation would most likely benefit Victorians and has been used to inform the ongoing statewide salt reduction initiative.
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