Lifestyle health of young people living in out-of-home care

Healthy Eating Active Living (HEALing) Matters Program

Young people living in out-of-home care (OOHC), who have been removed from their biological parents because of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse, are considered to be our most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth. They generally experience poorer health, social, educational and financial outcomes than young people not living in care.

HEALing Matters was the focus of Dr Rachael Green’s PhD thesis and has grown to become a Victorian Government funded online training package and knowledge exchange platform for OOHC residential workers and carers. The program was co-designed by Dr Green and Professor Helen Skouteris in partnership with key stakeholders, including end-users and young people with a lived experience of residential OOHC.

Its primary aim is to improve the eating and physical activity habits, as well as the wellbeing and life skills, of young people living in residential OOHC. HEALing Matters contributes to social and economic impact by reducing inequalities and promoting increased inclusion and health equity. Giving voice to young people and carers in the design and evaluation of HEALing Matters also empowers the community to take action and make meaningful changes to their social and physical environments.

The residential care workforce benefits from participation in HEALing Matters through capacity building that enables them to improve the lifestyle habits/routines of the young people they care for, helping them deliver on mandated requirements around healthy food and access to physical activity.

Dr Green is now project managing and leading the large-scale implementation and scale up of HEALing Matters across Victoria in partnership with the Victorian Department of Health, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, and community service organisations.

HEALing Matters was awarded the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science, Monash University, Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in Social and Economic Impact in 2020.

International HEALing Matters Alliance

Helen Skouteris, Rachael Green, Heidi Bergmeier, and Alex Chung have established an International HEALing Matters Alliance: Nurturing Children's Growth and Development through Healthy Eating and Physical Activity with a focus on reducing health inequities.

This Alliance is aligned with the WHO Nurturing Care Framework for Child Development, whereby policies and programmes must better address the nurturing of child development (especially in the first 2000 days) to give all children the best start to life.

This Alliance is also aligned with, and an extension of, work Helen Skouteris and Alex Chung began at the Salzburg Global Seminar 'Halting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic' (December 2019)  and this published paper on reframing the early childhood obesity prevention narrative through and equitable nurturing approach.

The Alliance was formed in 2021 and will form a shared vision and priorities, commencing with a co-authored international advocacy paper focusing on: “Why nurturing children’s growth through healthy eating and active living matters to reduce health inequities and why policy and advocacy in this context matters”.

Alliance Members

Australia

Professor Andrew Hills (University of Tasmania)
Dr Pam Kappelidis (La Trobe University)
Professor Daryl Higgins (Austalian Catholic University)
Dr Dave Vicary (Baptcare)
Dr Robyn Miller (MacKillop Family Services)
Professor Lisa Amir (La Trobe University)
Professor Luke Wolfenden (University of Newcastle)
Dr Sue Kleve (Monash University)
Michelle Gooey (Monash University)
Associate Professor George Moschonis (La Trobe University)
Kostas Hatzikiriakidis (Monash University)
Associate Professor Adrienne O’Neil (Deakin University)
Associate Professor Rebecca Wickes (Monash University)
Sue Anne Hunter (SNAICC)
Dr Liz Sturgiss (Monash University)
Professor Catherine Chamberlain (La Trobe University)
Dr Kay Gibbons (Victoria University)
Marina Paxman (Department of Communities and Justice, NSW)
Dr Alison Spence (Deakin University)

International

Professor Julie Lumeng (University of Michigan)
Professor Louise Masse (University of British Columbia)
Sir Michael Marmot (University College London)
Associate Professor Janet Schneiderman (University of Southern California)
Professor Mary Story (Duke University)
Associate Professor Emma Haycraft (Loughborough University)
Professor Caroline Meyer (Warwick University)
Dr Thomas Quarmby (Leeds Beckett University)
Dr Rachel Sandford (Loughborough University)
Professor Emily Munro (University of Bedfordshire)
Dr Karen Matvienko0Sikar (University College Cork)
Associate Professor Teresia O’Connor (Balor College Medicine)
Associate Professor Ruth Emond (Stirling University)
Associate Professor Doug Simkiss(Warwick University)
Dr Oliver Hooper (Loughborough University)
Professor Yannis Manios (Harokopio University)
Louise Tully (RCSI)
Dr Sukhpreet Kaur Baidwan (Birmingham Heartlands Hospital)