Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) Summary of Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project Final Report

Childhood overweight and obesity is a leading public health concern. The Obesity Prevention & Lifestyle (OPAL) program; a multi-site, multi-setting, multi-strategy community based childhood obesity prevention program, is being implemented in response to this issue. The aim of the OPAL program is to improve eating and physical activity patterns of South Australian children, through families and communities, and thereby increase the proportion of 0-18 year olds in the healthy weight range and improve their quality of life. OPAL was planned as a joint Australian Government, South Australian Government and Local Council program to be funded from 2008-2017. Despite the loss of Australian Government funding in 2014, the South Australian Government and Local Councils have continued to partner to implement the OPAL program in 20 communities. The South Australian Government funding will conclude, as planned, in June 2017. OPAL targets regions where disadvantage is greatest and the program impacts over 400,000 residents or one quarter of the State’s population.
To determine the effectiveness of the OPAL program, a multicomponent evaluation framework (including qualitative and quantitative methods) was developed. The Flinders University of South Australia (Flinders) OPAL Evaluation Project is the first of two components of the OPAL program evaluation. The second component is the OPAL Integrative Evaluation which is currently being completed by the University of South Australia. The outcomes of the Integrative Evaluation are expected in the first half of 2017.
The Flinders OPAL Evaluation Project Final Report (the “Report”) is a comprehensive and lengthy document. This Summary outlines the findings from the Report. Evaluation context As a result of Australian Government cuts to funding for the NPAPH and the OPAL program in June 2014, the funding for the Flinders OPAL Evaluation Project ended early. The implications are that instead of a full complement of 20 OPAL communities, only the first 10 (communities in Phase 1 and Phase 2) have been evaluated. The smaller than expected sample size, compounded by the low responses rates for the surveys, has ultimately reduced the statistical power to detect population level change. Further, the evaluation period was reduced from five years to three years of intervention due to delays in ethics approvals. The Report notes that “the period of evaluation may not have been long enough to have seen significant changes in the outcomes measured, in particular in weight status” (page 155). These limitations, and others outlined later in this Summary and in the Report, must be considered when interpreting the results.
Physical Environments:
o The Report examined parental surveys to examine many environmental (home and community) factors which may influence activity and sedentary behaviours.
o Statistically significant differences between OPAL communities and comparison communities at the final time-point were found for a limited number of these factors. These included increases in parents attending a community garden and the existence of a farmers’ market in the local area and decreases in the percentage of children with a television in their bedroom.
o Overall, the most commonly available facilities for physical activity were public parks, playgrounds or open spaces, friends or relative’s homes and bike/hiking/walking trails/paths. There were no statistically significant changes in the reported number of community activity facilities available or number used at least once a fortnight from baseline to final time-point in the OPAL and comparison communities, nor between these groups at final time-point.



Geographic Coverage

South Australia


see OPAL EVALUATION PROJECT FINAL REPORT OPAL PHASE 1 And 2; Obesity Prevention & Lifestyle (OPAL) Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project – Final Report April 2016 and Obesity Prevention & Lifestyle (OPAL) Summary of Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project Final Report December 2016 (also in this library)..


System Performance and Service Delivery Division, Department for Health and Ageing: 2016