OPAL logo with colourful swirls

The Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program was implemented in South Australia between 2009 and 2017. 

The OPAL program was informed by the French program, EPODE (translated as ‘together we can prevent childhood obesity’).

The aim of the program was 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. The program was implemented across five years in each of 20 South Australian OPAL Communities (plus one in the Northern Territory) in partnership with local councils.

OPAL communities

The work of OPAL is now embedded in many of those sites with a range of activities continuing as they are linked to delivering their loca Regional Public Health Plans under theSouth Australian Public Health Act 2011.

Some of the major achievements of the OPAL sites have been made available in the case studies

Phase 1 — 2009 to 2014

  • City of Marion
  • City of Mt Gambier
  • City of Onkaparinga
  • City of Playford
  • City of Port Augusta
  • City of Salisbury

Phase 2 — 2010 to 2015

  • City of Whyalla
  • District Council of the Copper Coast
  • City of Charles Sturt
  • City of Port Adelaide Enfield

Phase 3 — 2011 to 2016

  • City of West Torrens
  • City of Murray Bridge
  • Mid Murray Council
  • Northern Areas Council, Peterborough and Mount Remarkable (joint site)
  • City of Playford (South)
  • City of Palmerston - NT (COPAL)

Phase 4  — 2012 to 2017

  • Alexandrina Council
  • The Coorong District Council
  • City of Salisbury (North)
  • City of Charles Sturt (Outer)
  • Campbelltown City Council

OPAL goals

OPAL focused on six goals to bring about behavioural change across the community:

Eating well, which means:

  1. healthy food choices available at food outlets
  2. healthy meals produced in and from homes
  3. local healthy food production, access and distribution.

Being active, which includes

  1. active travel journeys
  2. active leisure participation choices
  3. use of parks, spaces and places.

There were also six OPAL themes.

OPAL evaluation

Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project Report 2016

The Flinders University of South Australia (Flinders) OPAL Evaluation Project measured changes in healthy weight and health-related quality of life as well as changes in eating practices (including fruit, vegetable and discretionary food/drink consumption) and changes in home and school environments, sleep, physical activity and sedentary (screen-time) practices. The community capacity building component of the OPAL program also was evaluated. This evaluation compared OPAL sites in Phase 1 and 2 of the program with matched comparison communities in the same phase.  

The Integrative Context-Process-Outcome Evaluation of South Australia’s Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) Program Report 2019 (OPAL Integrative Evaluation)

The OPAL Integrative Evaluation Final Report (April 2019) (PDF 871KB) is now available.

The evaluation experienced a series of delays. These related to issues with poor data quality, multiple ethics approvals, complexities in geocoding of address data and the resultant delay in delivery of data from SA Health to the Centre for Research and Action in Public Health (CeRAPH) at the University of Canberra, as well as some further clarifications and amendments to the Report in 2019.

There are substantial differences between the OPAL Integrative Evaluation and the Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project in terms of the data included and the approaches used. This makes comparison of findings of the two evaluations invalid.

In particular, the OPAL Integrative Evaluation includes data only for children aged 4 to 5 years (note the Flinders University OPAL Evaluation Project included data for children aged 9 to11 years) and includes data for four years before OPAL commenced, and two years after OPAL concluded, in each community.

The OPAL Integrative Evaluation’s primary finding is that the OPAL program was associated with a reduction in the prevalence of overweight and obesity for 4-5 year old children.

SA Health notes that:

  • the greatest effect was seen in the two years after the OPAL program concluded in each community,
  • this effect was particularly evident in the second year after the OPAL program concluded and this effect was based on smaller amounts of data, and
  • data from the years before OPAL commenced demonstrates ‘background’ variability from year to year in overweight and obesity prevalence in these communities (unrelated to OPAL).

The OPAL Integrative Evaluation also includes findings about the influence of the social environment, the built environment, community leadership and the strength of community partnerships on whether the OPAL program was successful. These provide interesting insights for future programs.