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OPAL case study creating healthy environments in Wallaroo.
The Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program was implemented in South Australia between 2009 and 2017.
The OPAL program was informed by the French program, EPODE (translated as ‘together we can prevent childhood obesity’).
The aim of the program was to improve eating and physical activity patterns of South Australian children, through families and communities, and thereby increase the proportion of 0-18 year olds in the healthy weight range and improve their quality of life. The program was implemented across five years in each of 20 South Australian OPAL Communities (plus one in the Northern Territory) in partnership with local councils.
The work of OPAL is now embedded in many of those sites with a range of activities continuing as they are linked to delivering their loca Regional Public Health Plans under theSouth Australian Public Health Act 2011.
Some of the major achievements of the OPAL sites have been made available in the case studies.
OPAL focused on six goals to bring about behavioural change across the community:
Eating well, which means:
Being active, which includes
There were also six OPAL themes.
The Flinders University of South Australia (Flinders) OPAL Evaluation Project measured changes in healthy weight and health-related quality of life as well as changes in eating practices (including fruit, vegetable and discretionary food/drink consumption) and changes in home and school environments, sleep, physical activity and sedentary (screen-time) practices. The community capacity building component of the OPAL program also was evaluated. This evaluation compared OPAL sites in Phase 1 and 2 of the program with matched comparison communities in the same phase.
The OPAL Integrative Evaluation Final Report (April 2019) (PDF 871KB) is now available.
The evaluation experienced a series of delays. These related to issues with poor data quality, multiple ethics approvals, complexities in geocoding of address data and the resultant delay in delivery of data from SA Health to the Centre for Research and Action in Public Health (CeRAPH) at the University of Canberra, as well as some further clarifications and amendments to the Report in 2019.
There are substantial differences between the OPAL Integrative Evaluation and the Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project in terms of the data included and the approaches used. This makes comparison of findings of the two evaluations invalid.
In particular, the OPAL Integrative Evaluation includes data only for children aged 4 to 5 years (note the Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project included data for children aged 9 to11 years) and includes data for four years before OPAL commenced, and two years after OPAL concluded, in each community.
The OPAL Integrative Evaluation’s primary finding is that the OPAL program was associated with a reduction in the prevalence of overweight and obesity for 4-5 year old children.
SA Health notes that:
The OPAL Integrative Evaluation also includes findings about the influence of the social environment, the built environment, community leadership and the strength of community partnerships on whether the OPAL program was successful. These provide interesting insights for future programs.