Curtin researchers leading WA Health4Life trial

Nyanda McBride.
Nyanda McBride.

AUSSIE kids have risk factors for poor health at disturbing levels with 95 per cent not eating enough fruit and vegetables, 85 per cent not getting enough exercise, and 86 per cent getting too much screen time.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre figures also reveal 74 per cent have used alcohol, and 23 per cent have used tobacco with a quarter of the nation’s kids not getting enough sleep.

On May 25, a new eHealth initiative was launched to help Australian teens improve not only their physical and mental health but reduce chronic disease risk.

Poor diet, smoking, risky alcohol use, physical inactivity, recreational screen time and poor sleep are known as the ‘Big 6’ risk factors associated with chronic disease.

Researchers hope to help break the persistent cycle of risky habits through the Health4Life trial.

Health4Life is a collaborative effort led by a handful of universities including Curtin University.

Nyanda McBride and Steve Allsop will lead the WA arm of the study as both work for the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin.

Researchers aim to recruit 8000 students from 80 schools across NSW, WA and Queensland to test the intervention.

It includes an online school-based program for Year 8s, a smartphone tracker app and a booster app to help students considered most at-risk.

Dr McBride said while there are other health apps targeting young people, this is the only one to tackle the six key lifestyle factors simultaneously.

“The trial will measure success based on longitudinal change to the six key behaviours over time, compared to a control group of students who will be participating in regular health education classes,” Dr McBride said.

“We are measuring change at 12, 24, 36 and 60 months after the start of the trial to examine any lasting effects over the adolescent period using both surveys and Fitbits.

“The Health4Life program hasn’t started yet but we will be recruiting schools in the second half of this year and providing the program to students from recruited schools when they are in Year 8 during 2019.

“Current statistics on the above behaviours suggest that there is quite a bit of room to impact on the behaviours of interest.”

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