INFANT – early intervention leading the way

More parents will soon have access to a world-leading early intervention program to establish healthy eating and active play habits for first-time parents and their infants.

INFANT (the Infant feeding, active play and nutrition program) is an evidence-based initiative designed for maternal and child healthcare workers to provide structured advice to guide healthy habits for new parents.  

Developed by IPAN researchers, the program was first conceptualised with Maternal and Child Health Nurses in 2008.  Since then, the program has continued to expand through the support of various partners and grant funding. 

Now INFANT is progressively being rolled out more broadly across Victoria, Australia, with the support of a five-year NHMRC Partnership* Grant, which commenced in 2019.  

The project, “Evaluating real-world implementation of an evidence-based program addressing lifestyle behaviours from the start of life” is led by Professor Karen Campbell, with colleagues Dr Rachel Laws, Dr Penny Love, Professor Kylie Hesketh,  and Dr Harriet Koorts also Chief Investigators on the project.  

Making a difference

Research shows that the first 1000 days – the period between conception and a child’s second birthday – are critical for establishing lifestyle behaviours that will determine a person’s health across their lives.  This includes their risk of becoming overweight or obese. 

The new NHMRC Partnership Grant allows INFANT to be progressively made available to all local government areas in Victoria, Australia, from 2020.  

To date, the INFANT team has consulted with Maternal and Child Health Nurse Managers about the program’s implementation. A new website has been launched, with information for organisations interested in running INFANT and a portal for facilitators.  

Backed by evidence

Project leader Professor Karen Campbell said IPAN researchers have established the evidence to show that INFANT helps parents and caregivers achieve healthy eating and active play right from the start of life. 

“INFANT has been proven to improve mothers and children’s diets, with the effects on children’s diets still apparent three years after their attendance at INFANT had finished,” she explained.  

Families who participated in the original INFANT randomised controlled trial between 2008 and 2010 reported better dietary habits, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water and fewer sugar sweetened beverages and sweet snacks; as well as reduced television viewing time. These effects were maintained or improved as children got older. 

This year, more Victorian local governments will have the opportunity to deliver INFANT, starting with those already implementing the program (Benalla, Mildura, Swan Hill and Whittlesea). Training will be available online and support will be offered by the team and via the INFANT website. Local governments will receive comprehensive guidance to support them in sustainably embedding the program into routine service delivery.