Adelaide: Researchers in South Australia, a state in the southern central part of Australia, are using GIS technology to tackle child obesity. They use GIS to gather information on existing infrastructure and resources. The data is then compared with facilities and resources associated with healthy eating and physical activity. A comparative analysis enables decision-makers to determine where targeted programmes, policies and infrastructure are required.
Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) programme, which supports children’s health through educating their families and communities, is the key to this project. Part of the OPAL program is an eight year evaluation which uses GIS technology to monitor and analyse existing infrastructure, environments and resources – such as playgrounds and recreation facilities – to better target state and local governments’ policy and intervention efforts. In the first stage of the evaluation, OPAL field teams gather the information required using mobile devices connected to the organisation’s central GIS technology. Then the teams input and upload data about the locations and conditions of facilities and resources that are associated with healthy eating and physical activity – such as playgrounds, ovals, bike tracks, food outlets and water fountains. This helps researchers analyse maps of this information with key demographic data – such as childhood obesity rates – to gain a greater understanding of the relationships between where resources are, what condition they are in and, importantly, who has access to them. Finally, the technology enables decision-makers to determine where targeted programmes, policies and infrastructure are required to ensure children have facilities and environments that support healthy choices.