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Community & Business

15 February, 2023

Make Oakey healthy again

A UniSQ study aims to help make Oakey healthy for the future, with a town hall meeting to be held next month.

Professor Tracy Kolbe-Alexander is looking to get in touch with Oakey residents in a town hall meeting next month

It’s no secret that being physically active has many benefits including improving health and wellbeing, but it’s can often be challenging to make time to exercise.

Numerous studies have highlighted how an increase in saturated foods, and a reduction in the amount of outdoor activity have factored into this decline. 

Unfortunately, Oakey and the Darling Downs are no exception, with a third of adults recorded as obese and another third in the overweight bracket. 

But a new study by the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) hopes to get Oakey healthy again by listening to local people.

The strategy, headed by Professor Tracy Kolbe-Alexander will target a strength-based approach, centred around community-led programs. 

This means highlighting what already works well in the district in terms of activity, and aiming to improve it. 

“I see my role as an academic as not only connecting with community, but being led by community,” she said. 

Professor Kolbe-Alexander says she has  been conducting interviews with people in and around town.

“One of the things that I’m doing in Oakey is asking people what their issues are (when it comes to their health),” she said. 

“We’re planning on holding a Town Hall style meeting in Oakey next month.”

So far, the response from people in Oakey has been strongly centred around an improvement in mental health support for people in town. 

Already, children aged 10 to 12 in Oakey have provided their feedback on what makes physical exercise and healthy lifestyle choices more accessible for them in their daily lives.

“There were children in Oakey that took part in a project which involved walking around Oakey, generally for a period of around 30-45 minutes,” Professor Kolbe-Alexander said. 

Things that the children highlighted involved a larger  skate park, with a pedestrian crossing on the main street across from Oakey State School that made it safer to walk there after 3pm.

The young people involved were asked to pictures and label the images as either ‘good’ or ‘bad‘ for their health outcomes.

“The feedback we got was that trees were great in summer, and that the bubblers available were not always cold,” Professor Kolbe-Alexander said. 

The work of local schools in providing healthy choices to students has also been  a major highlight of Professor Kolbe-Alexander’s investigations.

As for broader issues, the study identified a prevailing sentiment amongst locals that many health services were being outsourced to larger centres such as Toowoomba.

“We’ve heard that Toowoomba is close, but not close enough,” the Professor said. 

“With the increase in fuel prices, it’s an issue many people have with driving there and back.”

“There’s also a perception that there are services that go from Toowoomba to Dalby bypassing Oakey.”

“An immediate presence of health services helps give early access for diabetes.”

Another key theme was pervasive feelings of isolation and loneliness for older members of town, who felt disconnected from the community in which they had grown up. 

“Events such as the barbecues (put on by the PCYC) are great for social connectedness,” she said.

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