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Researcher profiles:

Study global leader in addressing excessive weight gain

APPLE – A Pilot Programme for Lifestyle and Exercise was the first in New Zealand and one of the first studies internationally to show that community-based initiatives could successfully reduce the rate of excessive weight gain in primary school-aged children.

Novel community-wide approach

At the time, APPLE was novel in trying a wider community approach to address the problem of obesity. Rather than only focusing on already overweight children we involved all children in being exposed to an environment which makes exercise and activity fun, and discouraged excessive television watching, and unhealthy eating patterns. This study aimed to actually change the environment in which children live so that appropriate levels of physical activity and healthy foods were more widely available, and easily accessible.

The intervention programme included:

  • Community Activity Coordinators
  • Increased availability of equipment and services
  • Implementation of school policies regarding drinks
  • 'Snacktivity' breaks
  • Community activity days
  • School walking buses
  • Educational activities

The study involved  seven schools and communities in Otago, and showed benefits both at two years (end of the intervention) and at four years, two years after the community activity co-ordinators were no longer employed.


Nielsen, G., Taylor, R.W., Williams, S.M., & Mann, J.I. (2010). Permanent play facilities in school playgrounds as a determinant of children's activity. J Phys Act Health 7, 490-496.
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McAuley, K.A., Taylor, R.W., Farmer, V.L., Hansen, P., Williams, S.M., Booker, C.S., Mann, J.I. (2010). Economic evaluation of a community-based obesity prevention program in children: the APPLE project. Obesity (Silver Spring),18(1), 131-6.
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Taylor, R.W., McAuley, K.A., Barbezat, W., Farmer, V.L., Williams, S.M., Mann, J.I. (2008). Two-year follow-up of an obesity prevention initiative in children: the APPLE project. Am J Clin Nutr. 88, 1371–7.
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Taylor, R.W., McAuley, K.A., Barbezat, W., Strong, A., Williams, S.M., Mann, J.I.(2007).   APPLE Project: 2-y findings of a community-based obesity prevention program in primary school age children. Am J Clin Nutr. 86(3), 735-42.
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Taylor, R., McAuley, K., Williams, S., Barbezat, W., Nielsen, G., Mann, J. (2006). Reducing weight gain in children through enhancing physical activity and nutrition: the APPLE project. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 1, 146-152.
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Williden, M., Taylor, R.W., McAuley, K.A., Simpson, J.C., Oakley, M., & Mann, J.I. (2006). The APPLE project: an investigation of the barriers and promoters of healthy eating and physical activity in children aged 5-12 years. Health Educ J 65(2), 135-148
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