Centre for Population Health (NCPHWR) researchers are part of a new collaborative research project, which will explore the effects of the built environment on child health and obesity in Australia and Wales.
The BEACHES (Built Environments And Child Health in WalEs and AuStralia) project, joint funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and Australia’s National Health Medial Research Council (NHMRC), is led by a team of academics including Centre academics Dr Richard Fry, Prof Ronan Lyons, Prof Sinead Brophy, Prof Alan Watkins and Prof Gareth Stratton. Our researchers will be working together with experts from institutions including Population Data Science and the College of Engineering at Swansea University; as well as Australian institutions, led by Telethon Kids Institute, including The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Queensland University of Technology and Monash University.
Anonymised data collected from over one million children will be analysed to help understand how built environments can contribute to physical activity and childhood obesity, and how to overcome this challenge to create family-friendly environments for healthy living and the comparisons between the two countries.
The team in Wales will build and link longitudinal GIS models of the built environment with cohort data and routinely collected electronic health records for children in the UK and Australia. SAIL Databank will be used for the Swansea component of the work with academic expertise led by Prof Gareth Stratton (Physical Activity), Dr Richard Fry (Built Environments) and Dr Lucy Griffiths (Child Health) supported by Co-investigators Dr Amy Mizen, Professor Alan Watkins, Prof Sinead Brophy and Prof Ronan Lyons.
The project will provide findings that will enable policy-makers at international, national, regional and local levels to develop prevention programmes and modify the built environment to reduce childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases. The built environment includes places and spaces created or modified by people such as buildings, parks and transport systems.
Childhood obesity and physical inactivity are two of the most significant risk factors for the prevention of non-communicable diseases, yet a third are children in Wales and Australia are overweight or obese, and only 20% of UK and Australian children are sufficiently active. This unique study will bring together five large UK and Australian cohort studies to investigate how the built environment influences risk factors such as physical inactivity, sedentary time and unhealthy diet in childhood.
Prof Gareth Stratton, Swansea University College of Engineering and NCPHWR Collaborator, commented:
‘BEACHES is a novel, exciting project that brings together an array of team scientists to use the research strengths in Swansea and Western Australia to develop a deeper understanding of one of the most challenging health issues of our time: The interaction of the built environment on healthy weight and healthy behaviours in the management of childhood obesity. We are particularly excited to continue our strong research partnership with our colleagues in Western Australia and Monash to produce new insights into childhood obesity and non-communicable disease.’
Built Environments And Child Health in Wales and Australia (BEACHES) is a UKRI-NHMRC Built Environment Prevention Research Scheme Project 2020-2023.