Can obesity intervention programs developed by Social Marketing @ Griffith be introduced in Indonesian communities and schools to reduce increasing rates of obesity? This goal is being investigated by a joint Griffith University, University of Queensland and University of Surabaya, Indonesia research team.

Professor-Sharyn-Rundle-Thiele-Marketing-Workshop-Surabaya-IndonesiaThe Tackling Obesity project, led by Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele and managed by Dr Denni Arli both of Social Marketing @ Griffith represents a coordinated and partnered research effort.

Obesity is a serious health issue in Indonesia, which has increased as more Indonesian people adopt western lifestyles. Many Indoensians are generally unaware of the health implications of the food they eat. This is compounded with low levels of exercise according to Griffith’s Tackling Obesity research findings.

Unlike Australia where many local, State and Federal government education campaigns emphasising the importance of healthy lifestyles, nutritional food and the need for exercise are communicated to improve the health of the population, no such efforts exist in Indonesia.

“We noticed there’s a lot of social issues in Indonesia and social marketing in particular is unknown, compared to in Australia where we have government involvement and a wide range of programs in place tackling a range of health issues including reducing smoking and preventing weight gain, “ said Dr Arli.

Delegates-Social-Marketing-Workshop-Surabaya-Indonesia“Because of limited funding and other social issues including poverty community based approaches are needed to tackle obesity. We found diabetes is a key issue, along with heart attacks and poor eating choices.”

The Tackling Obesity project was funded by the Australian and Indonesian Institute within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The project aimed to: (1) identify health-related (diet, physical exercise, smoking and drinking) segments within the Indonesian population; (2) develop an understanding of motivation, ability and opportunity to prevent weight gain for Indonesians most at risk of obesity; (3) explore the most effective ways to promote healthy lifestyles.

Prior to the project’s commencement, Dr Arli was concerned about a general lack of knowledge and awareness among Indonesians about healthy food choices and a lack of understanding of the benefits of exercise. He was aware of these issues from his time living and working in Indonesia.

“When we were in Indonesia for an earlier research project on smoking, we noticed other social issues in this area, and that’s why we continued the research,” said Dr Arli.

We found that people who suffer the highest risk of obesity are in Indonesia’s middle class. So the initial intervention program will be based on that segment.”

The project has involved a mix of quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. A preliminary report was presented at the University of Surabaya in October 2017. Facilitation on ground has been provided by a charity in Surabaya called the House of Love.

“We have undertaken 1200 quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews with more than a 100 people from the three different groups,” said Dr Arli.

“We’re lucky we have a collaborator with the House of Love in Surabaya, they are one of the largest not-for-profit charities in terms of assisting poverty alleviation, and they have access to thousands of individuals we can assist.”

“The House of Love founder Hana Amalia Vandayani, has been recognised by the vice president of Indonesia Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, and she has been recognised internationally for her contribution to the community.”

“At the end of the project last October we held a large workshop at the University of Surabaya, attended by government, not-for-profits, academics, students, about 300 people and we presented our results from the Tackling Obesity findings.”

“The strategy focus needed in Indonesia is prevention. I can see the demand and urgency in Indonesia. When I began working with the House of Love, they really needed help. They didn’t have the expertise and they needed assistance to research and measure their activities and impact,” said Dr Arli.

“They have the people but they don’t have the knowledge and expertise for this type of research and education. They are very open for our assistance and I can see a long term relationship and positive impact that we can help to provide for the Indonesian community.”