A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Eating Disorders in Children Research

‘Confident Body, Confident Child: Effectiveness trial of community-based dissemination of a resource to support parents of preschoolers in preventing body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and obesity in their children’

La Trobe University, Vic.
Awarded 2015 – 2018

“Confident Body, Confident Child (CBCC) is a new evidence-based resource providing parenting strategies to prevent body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and overweight in children aged 2-6 years.”

Researcher Profile

Dr. Laura Hart is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University. Laura has been working in the field of mental health research since 2007, when she began developing guidelines on how to provide mental health first aid to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. In 2011, Laura completed her PhD in the area of “Mental Health First Aid for Eating Disorders”. She was the recipient of the Australian Rotary Health Ian Scott Scholarship, and a Butterfly Foundation Top-Up Distinction Scholarship. Since 2012, Laura has been working across two research projects. The development and evaluation of the teen Mental Health First Aid program is based at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, in collaboration with Mental Health First Aid Australia. This project received a 2014 Australian Rotary Health Project Grant, to run a pilot cluster Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) with four Victorian High Schools.

The Confident Body, Confident Child (CBCC) program is based at La Trobe University. CBCC is a new evidence-based resource providing parenting strategies to prevent body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and overweight in children aged 2-6 years. The resource pack includes booklets, a poster, a children’s book, website and a parent information session. A 2014 RCT showed that parents who received CBCC reported significantly more positive parenting strategies, significantly less negative parenting strategies, greater knowledge of child body image, and fewer parental feeding practices associated with unhealthy eating and weight in childhood, than parents who received a nutrition-only resource or were in the wait-list control group. As the winner of multiple awards for outstanding research presentations, Laura’s work has been recognised at national and international scientific conferences. She is a qualified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, parent and dedicated early career researcher.

Project Summary

Confident Body, Confident Child (CBCC) is a new evidence-based resource providing parenting strategies to prevent body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and overweight in children aged 2-6 years. The resource pack includes booklets, a poster, a children’s book, website and a parent workshop.

The current project aims to evaluate how effective providing CBCC in a community setting is, by teaching Early Childhood Professionals how to use the CBCC resource with families at their service. A tutorial, consisting of learning modules, activities and assessment will be developed to train 12 Professionals from childcare centres, Maternal and Child Health centres, kindergartens or primary schools, to run the 2-hour CBCC workshop and provide the resource pack to at least 10 parents of 2-6 year olds who attend their service. Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) scores for primary schools and nearby Early Childhood or health services will be used to target disadvantaged communities. Professionals’ implementation, and parents’ use of the CBCC materials, will be assessed using a randomised controlled trial, with online questionnaires of knowledge, stigma and parenting variables affecting child development, completed before the tutorial, 6-weeks and 6-months after.

If the tutorial is effective in helping Early Childhood Professionals to disseminate the program, and in-turn, helping parents to improve knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that foster positive body image and healthy eating in their pre-schoolers, the intervention can be broadly disseminated by a health promotion organisation and targeted to high-needs communities across Australia, at low-cost.

This project will produce two important outcomes. One is the development of new research knowledge that will be published in at least one high-impact academic journal, and presented at, at least one, national and one international conference. The other is a tutorial for Early Childhood Professionals, which can be provided across the community at low-cost, to reduce the impact that body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and overweight have on the mental health of young Australians.

Co-Investigator: Professor Susan Paxton