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A new approach to tackling teenage weight issues

Media release

A program targeting teenagers’ attitudes towards food and activity is looking for participants in the Midland and Cockburn regions.

The Curtin University Activity, Food and Attitudes program (CAFAP) is an eight-week healthy lifestyle program for overweight teenagers and their families.

Professor Leon Straker, of Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy, said the program’s family-centred approach to addressing a young person’s weight problems make it different to anything else offered in Australia.

“The parent and child work through the eight-week program together,” Professor Straker said.

“It’s the commitment and support from the entire family that helps to break habits of a lifetime.”

Twenty young people, aged between 12 and 16 years and from each of the two regions, along with one of their parents, are needed to take part in the program.

According to Professor Straker, obesity in young people is one of the fastest growing health problems in Australia, yet there is a lack of tools available aimed at motivating young people to change their lifestyle habits.

“For many, the age group of 12 to 16 year olds are put in a ‘too hard’ basket,” he said.

“But in eight short weeks we have seen changes in young people that could last a lifetime.”

The CAFAP program has been on trial at Curtin since 2009, with 37 young people and their parents going through the program.

“Healthy changes we have seen young people make include finding sports and active pursuits that they enjoy, some have discovered new fruit and vegetables, and others have made simple household changes that have made the entire family healthier – and happier,” Professor Straker said.

Healthway has awarded Professor Straker and his research team $447,339 to take the program into the community, as research findings from the trial suggested the program needed to be offered closer to home for a better chance of success.

To be eligible for the program teenagers need to be aged between 12 to 16 years and have a BMI-for-age above the 85th percentile. Teenagers and their parents attend two sessions of two hours each, per week for eight weeks. Participants remain in contact with the project team for a further three months to help maintain healthy lifestyle changes.

The CAFAP program is being provided free to participants through the support from Curtin University and Healthway.

To find out more visit, email or call Kyla on 9266 3694.


Professor Leon Straker, School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 3634, Email:

Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Mobile: 0402 517 300, Email: