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Gympie families urged to sign up to stop obesity

THE Gympie region is facing a fat attack, with more than 25,000 residents battling the bulge - almost 44% of the population.

In Queensland, more than a quarter of our children are fat.

To stem this worsening trend, Gympie region families are urged to sign up to a free government-funded healthy lifestyle program that could transform their lives and offer a fresh start after the Easter holidays.

The PEACH (Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health) program is one way of tackling Queensland's rising obesity rates, and kicks off next month.

It is the first time the program has been offered in Gympie having been launched in September, 2013, with already 250 Queensland families taking part.

It will be delivered at Gympie South State School on Monday afternoons by Queensland University of Technology in partnership with the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, funded by the Queensland Government.

Families with a child aged 5-11 years whose weight is above a healthy range for their age and gender are eligible for the program.

Queensland Health spokesman Jackie Kraayenbrink said families who go through PEACH can expect to gain knowledge that will set them up to achieve a healthy lifestyle for the long term.

"We are really excited about offering the evidence-based PEACH program to the Gympie community and encourage any parent or carer who feels they need help with this important issue to make contact," Ms Kraayenbrink said.

"The great thing about this program is that it's family-focused so it doesn't stigmatise the child and it is conducted in a supportive group environment with people who are experiencing the same struggles."

Program director and the head of QUT's Exercise and Nutrition Sciences School, Professor Lynne Daniels, said the response to the program so far had been encouraging and indicated a genuine need for this type of program.

We currently have a number of PEACH program groups running across the

state and we're thrilled to be expanding the service in regional areas," Professor Daniels said.

"We hear parents say they are so relieved to be able to access this professional help because often they don't know where to begin.

"Acknowledging that their child may be overweight and then figuring out what to do about it can be very confronting."

Professor Daniels said if a parent thought their child might be overweight they should go to their GP to have them weighed and measured as part of a standard health check or go directly to the PEACH website.

The program runs for six months and consists of 10 group sessions that run for 90 minutes each. The first nine sessions are held weekly within the school term.

Ongoing individualised family support is offered through the second half of the program ending with one final group session.

Some of the topics covered include nutrition skills, relationships with food and eating, changing family lifestyle behaviours and making healthy eating affordable.

Families can contact the PEACH program on free call 1800 263 519 or register at http://www.peachqld.com.au.

Attack the fat

 More than 25,000 Gympie region residents are overweight or obese.

 New research shows 5468 men and 5479 women living in the Gympie Regional Council area are obese while 6560 men and 4487 women are overweight.

 That adds up to a whopping 21,994, or 43.9%, of the region's 50,000 residents.

 Queensland Health estimates 27% of children are obese or overweight, amounting to about 200,000 children aged 5-17 "who face a lifetime of health problems as a result of being overweight or obese at a young age".

 In Australia, overweight and obesity rates in children have doubled over the past 30 years.

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