Embrace Kids program boosts positive body image in schools

Flinders University has endorsed the ‘Embrace Kids’ film for its role in boosting positive body image among both children and adults.

Flinders University has endorsed the ‘Embrace Kids’ film for its role in boosting positive body image among both children and adults, following a new study published in the journal Body Image.

The research, conducted at the university’s recently established Em e Foundation supports body image interventions, leaving viewers of the film less concerned about their appearance, which is a common issue with such programmes.

Unrealistic expectations about what our bodies should look like, whether that comes from the media or those around us, makes us more vulnerable to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and other mental health challenges.

“The study gives promising preliminary evidence in support of the broad impact and reach of Embrace Kids and points to its potential as a resource that could be safely delivered at scale, at minimal cost,” says Philippa Granfield, from the recently formed Embrace Impact Lab at Flinders University.

“Young people, as well as the adults who accompanied them to screenings of Embrace Kids, reported improved body image and self-compassion after watching the film. It motivated viewers of all ages to be kinder to themselves and others in social media.

“Importantly, it did all of this without making viewers more concerned about their appearance, which is sometimes a concern people have about body image interventions.”

Currently, an evaluation of the Embrace Kids Classroom Programme is taking place across 20 schools in South Australia and Queensland. This initiative is supported by Flinders Foundation for Year 7-8 and Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation for Year 5-6.

The programme, developed with assistance from Little Heroes Foundation, is designed to fit within the Australian Curriculum, with five feature lessons incorporating interactive activities.

“Future research will explore how the Classroom Program and film might work together to produce enduring benefits to body image, and set young people up for positive relationships with their bodies, before body image concerns take hold,” says Associate Professor Prichard.

Embrace Kids research advisor Dr Zali Yager also adds: “We brought together all of the research on ‘what works’ to help young people feel better about their bodies, and infused it into the film.

“It’s great that this evaluation confirms the effectiveness of this approach – not only for young people, but for their grown-ups too.”

While Ross Verschoor, Flinders Foundation Executive Director, says there is an “urgent need to help Australian children embrace their body image and overcome the issues which negatively affect their physical health and mental wellbeing”.

“The Flinders Foundation is committed to helping South Australian children get the best start in life so they can realise their full potential as healthy, happy adults,” Mr Verschoor says.

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