Ms Sarah Taki

Field of Research: 
Stream 1
Faculty of Health
University of Technology Sydney
Sarah Taki

Sarah Taki is a Ph.D student at the University of Technology Sydney. She has completed her Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney and is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) and an Accredited Nutritionist (AN) and currently works as a dietitian in a healthy lifestyle program developed for children above the healthy weight.

Sarah's PhD project aims to explore the effectiveness of an m-health intervention delivered through primary health care on disadvantaged parents’ infant feeding practices. 

In Australia, infants from a low socioeconomic status (SES) and from Indigenous families have a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity. Findings from the 2011 Australian Healthy Survey report that over one-fifth (23%) of two to four year old children were overweight or obese. Children from a lower SES were more likely (33%) to be overweight or obese compared with children living in high SES areas (19%).

One determinant of excess weight gain in early childhood is parental feeding practices, including methods of infant feeding as well as timing and the quality of solid foods introduced. In developed countries, mothers from low SES groups are more likely to stop breastfeeding early, formula feed or introduce solids earlier; compared to mothers from high SES groups; these behaviours are associated with unhealthy weight gain in early childhood. The root causes of unhealthy weight gain in infants are complex and multifaceted, involving the interaction of multiple social, biological, behavioural and environmental factors that adversely impact on energy imbalance. One potentially modifiable mechanism involves parental feeding practices and behaviours. This can be sought using a number of techniques to target the antecedents to encourage mothers uptake healthy infant feeding behaviours.

Information on infant feeding is obtained by mothers in an array of forms including health practitioners, books, the internet, friends and family. mHealth services are now a commonly used method to conveniently deliver information and support. Although, within the infant feeding field there is a dearth of studies reporting the use of mHealth to prevent unhealthy weight gain in infants. In preliminary work, we found that Australian infant feeding websites and apps are generally of poor quality with minimal sources that follow advice from the Australian infant feeding guidelines. As technology is increasingly being used, there is a need to develop reliable and credible infant feeding sources that are evidence based to encourage healthy infant feeding practices.

This study is part of the COMPaRE-PHC CRE research program and will evaluate the feasibility and utility of a mHealth intervention that provides expert advice to parents about infant feeding. The Growing healthy app provides advice and tips on breast and formula feeding, feed and sleep patterns, introducing solids, healthy recipe ideas, keeping mums healthy and support access to other resources. Parents will be sent three messages a week, suitable to the age, stage and feeding style of the baby which will be linked to useful information within the app.

This study will identify how participants engage with the app and the impact of the app on knowledge and behaviours related to infant feeding. This will be assessed through analysis of the app “diagnostics” and includes exploring activities such as number of push notifications opened, pages accessed and frequency of use and through questionnaires completed by parents at baseline, 6 and 9 months. This study will also conduct interviews with parents to explore in depth use, feasibility and efficacy of the app.

Data collection of the study will be complete in March 2016 and results will be available in late 2016.