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Cancer Council WA (through funding from Healthway in partnership with Telethon Kids) have funded the first stage of another Rapid Obesity Policy Translation project being led by Dr Gina Trapp – one that will allow her to analyse the food-buying habits of children from a northern suburbs high school before and after a major fast-food outlet is built directly across the road.

Approved despite the objections of public health advocates and school leadership, the outlet – which will be visible from classrooms – will be built this year.

“It’s heartbreaking, really,” Mrs Sartori said. “This school is trying so hard to keep their kids healthy and has worked to build up a really healthy canteen, and suddenly they’re going to have this fast-food outlet right across the road. But at the moment, planning legislation doesn’t allow this kind of public health impact to be taken into consideration.”

Mrs Sartori said results from Dr Trapp’s project would inform efforts to change the legislation.

If we are going to argue this kind of community impact, we need to provide a lot of evidence 

Gina’s research is going to be absolutely crucial going forward because we’ll be able to show what happens before and after an outlet like this goes in

“That sort of evidence is vital but it’s so rare to get it – that’s where this Rapid Obesity Translation Policy program really comes into its own.”

The project’s funding was originally earmarked for another study but was quickly diverted once the outlet was approved and Cancer Council WA realised how urgently Dr Trapp needed to move in order to get important comparative data before construction.

“We know it takes about five months for one of these outlets to get built, so to be able to just channel some funding to Gina straight away to conduct this research was perfect timing,” Mrs Sartori said.

Dr Trapp said such a project would have been impossible through normal funding mechanisms.

“It can take up to a year to write the grant, be assessed, and receive the money if you’re successful,” Dr Trapp said. “By then the outlet has been built and the boat has sailed.”

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