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Office of Sport


The SPort & Recreation INTervention & Epidemiology Research (SPRINTER) group is a research partnership between the Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney and the NSW Office of Sport. SPRINTER provides leadership and evidence to inform evidence-based decision making. 

SPRINTER Symposium

The SPort & Recreation INTervention & Epidemiology Research (SPRINTER) group is a research partnership between the Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney and the NSW Office of Sport. SPRINTER provides leadership and evidence to inform evidence-based decision making. 

Working at the intersection, where research meets policy and practice, the SPRINTER group is ideally placed to facilitate the re-design of what Sport really means to our local communities, and promote the successful integration of public health, within a refreshed concept of the sporting sector.

The SPRINTER group focuses on policy relevant research, pragmatic evaluation, biostatistics and epidemiological methods, capability and capacity work across sport, recreation and physical activity sector partners. Their expertise is in physical activity, sport, active recreation promotion throughout life and prevention of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. 

While SPRINTER are independent, their deep understanding of the policy environment allows them to work extremely effectively with governments to inform decision-making. They provide key decision-makers with the evidence and impetus to adopt a forward-thinking, high impact, cost-effective approach to long-term public health outcomes through physical activity.

The Core Team

Academic Director: Professor & Director Prevention Research Collaboration Philayrath Phongsavan
Senior Research Officer: Bridget Foley
Biostatistician: Dr Katherine Owen
Research Assistant: Dr Catriona Rose

SPRINTER Academic Ambassadors

Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman
Associate Professor William Bellew
Dr Lindsey Reece

External Advisory Committee (EPAC)

Sport NSW representative
Outdoors NSW representative
Sport Australia representative

SPRINTER work alongside policymakers, practitioners, NGOs, global health organisations and the community to deliver public health and policy-relevant research.

SPRINTER partnership Vision

Establish a research community that informs policy deliberations on how to enable more people to be active everyday through sport, recreation and physical activity.

SPRINTER partnership Mission

Assist the government to lead and shape Australia’s sport and physical activity system through the delivery of world class research translated into policy and practice. 

SPRINTER partnership priorities:

  1. Enhancing the health, wealth and wellbeing of NSW population through increasing participation in Sport and recreation
  2. Conducting quality research and evaluation that informs policy and practice
  3. Establishing cross-sector partnerships that enhance quality and relevance of research
  4. Fostering a sport policy and practice culture that values research
  5. Building research capability in sport policy and practice through stakeholder and sector engagement

SPRINTER position on Office of Sport structure:

Policy and Planning Group 

Active Kids Evaluation Report 2018-2020

This report presents evaluation findings from the independent evaluation of the New South Wales (NSW) 
Government’s Active Kids program. Data are presented from the first 3 years of the Active Kids program 
delivery (2018, 2019, and 2020).

Active Kids Evaluation Report 2018-2020 (PDF, 4.23 MB)

Her Sport Her Way Grant Program Evaluation

The purpose of these reports is to present findings from the SPRINTER evaluation of the Her Sport Her Way Grant Program. 

Her Sport Her Way Grant Program Evaluation Report - June 2021
Her Sport Her Way Grant Program Evaluation Report - June 2023 (PDF, 1.46 MB)

An active NSW; Children and Adolescent participation in sport and physical activity

Analysis of population surveillance metrics to understand participation rates and trends in organised sport and physical activity. Data sources used include Ausplay (through national partnership with Sport Australia). 

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on children’s physical activity levels in NSW, Australia

AusPlay NSW: Participation in organised sport and physical activity amongst children aged 0-14 years (PDF, 561.39 KB)

An Active NSW; Adult participation in sport and physical activity

Analysis of population surveillance metrics to understand participation rates and trends in organised sport and physical activity. Data sources used include Ausplay (through national partnership with Sport Australia). 

AusPlay NSW: Participation analysis in structured sport and physical activity amongst Adults (PDF, 609.39 KB)

Complex Pragmatic Evaluations of policy and programs


‘One hundred dollars is a big help, but to continue, it’s a challenge’: A qualitative study exploring correlates and barriers to Active Kids voucher uptake in western Sydney

The Active Kids voucher is a universal, state‐wide voucher program, provided by the New South Wales (NSW) Government, Office of Sport. All school‐aged children in NSW are eligible to receive a voucher to reduce registration costs of structured physical activity programs. This study explores reasons behind lower uptake among children who are overweight or obese, from cultural and linguistically diverse families and those living in low socio‐economic areas.

Evaluation of a voucher scheme to increase child physical activity in participants of a school physical activity trial in the Hunter region of Australia

Research Overview:

A longitudinal study of parents /carers amongst primary school children in the Hunter region of NSW. This was an existing study who added in questions about Active Kids to explore reach and redemption of the AK voucher and subsequent participation. 

96% parents (n=407) reported redeeming a voucher.

Children who redeemed a voucher had three times the odds to participate in organized team sports from baseline to follow-up (p = 0.009). Sub group analyses identified that females who redeemed a voucher had four times the odds to participate in organized team sports (p = 0.012).

Body Mass Index of children and adolescent participants in a voucher program designed to incentivise participation in sport and physical activity: a cross-sectional study


•    The Active Kids program reached 75,927 children who were overweight or obese.
•    The program reached approximately 25% of all eligible children who were overweight and obese.
•    The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 17.2% and 7.6%, respectively.
•    There was a clear socio-economic gradient for obesity prevalence.

Effects of the Active Kids voucher program on children and adolescents’ physical activity (PDF, 1.11 MB)

In 2018, all children and adolescents registered for an Active Kids voucher provided sociodemographic characteristics, physical activity and research consent. This prospective cohort study used an online survey with validated items to measure physical activity and other personal and social factors in children and adolescents who used an Active Kids voucher. Generalized linear mixed models were used to examine changes from registration to after voucher use at ≤8 weeks, 9–26 weeks and ≥ 6 months. Study participants reported increasing their days achieving physical activity guidelines from 4.0 days per week at registration to 4.9 days per week after 6 months. Increased physical activity was observed for all sociodemographic population groups. The voucher-specific activity contributed 42.4% to the total time children participated in structured physical activities outside of school. Children and adolescents who increased to, or maintained, high levels of activity were socially supported to be active, had active parent/caregivers, had better concentration and were overall happier than their low-active counterparts. The Active Kids program significantly increased children’s physical activity levels and these increases continued over a six-month period. The Active Kids voucher program shows promise as a scaled-up intervention to increase children and adolescents’ physical activity participation.

Who does the Active Kids program reach?

Abstract: Active Kids is a government-led, universal voucher program that aims to reduce the cost of participation in structured physical activity for all school-enrolled children in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. As part of the Active Kids program evaluation, this cross-sectional study examined the Active Kids’ program’s reach to children in NSW and their physical activity behaviors, before voucher use. Demographic registration data from all children (4.5–18 years old) who registered for an Active Kids voucher in 2018 (n = 671,375) were compared with Census data. Binary and multinomial regression models assessed which correlates were associated with meeting physical activity guidelines and participation in the sessions of structured physical activity. The Active Kids program attracted more than half (53%) of all eligible children in NSW. Children who spoke a primary language other than English at home, were aged 15–18 years old, lived in the most disadvantaged areas, and girls, were less likely to register. Of the registered children, 70% had attended structured physical activity sessions at least once a week during the previous 12 months, whilst 19% achieved physical activity guidelines. Active Kids achieved substantial population reach and has the potential to improve children’s physical activity behaviors.

Physical Activity and Sport participation in Indigenous children (PDF, 456.49 KB)

  • In 2018, more than 35,000 Indigenous children engaged with Active Kids.  This is one of the largest cohorts of indigenous children in Australia presenting unique opportunity to learn more 
  • The Active Kids voucher program evaluation highlights the significant reach that the program achieved to Indigenous and non-Indigenous children indicating that the universality of the Active Kids program appears acceptable, enabling reach to children from low socioeconomic backgrounds and of all abilities which is essential to promote inclusive sport and physical activity opportunities. 
  • This study found that Indigenous children are more physically active, however their sport participation is lower, than non-Indigenous children.
  • This universal approach could be complimented with additional targeted approaches to achieve equitable socioeconomic reach. 

SPRINTER evaluation protocol for Active Kids is registered with Australian and New Zealand Clinical trials registry. ACTRN12618001148268


Active Kids evaluation protocol

Parental awareness and engagement


  • In 2018, the Active Kids program reached over half (53%) of all school-enrolled children in NSW and subsequently reduced the cost barrier to organised sport and physical activity for these children. This reach supports continued government investment in the program.
  • A substantial proportion of children who live in the most disadvantaged areas have engaged in the Active Kids program.
  • However, there is still a large proportion of socially disadvantaged groups who have not engaged in the program.
  • Parent/carer’s in the most disadvantaged areas were twice as likely to be unaware and not engage in the Active Kids Program compared with parents/carers in the least disadvantaged areas.
  • Further targeted work is required to increase the awareness and engagement in the Active Kids program for socially disadvantaged groups.

Regional Sport and Active Recreation Plans evaluation

The scope of the Regional Sport and Active Recreation Plans evaluation is broad as each of the nine regional areas in NSW have individualised plans. These plans adopt a multi-sectoral, place-based approach and will be implemented by six partner groups. We have developed a standardised evaluation framework with specific targets and measurable indicators which will be used to answer the following questions:

  1. To what extent are the six objectives in the regional sport and active recreation plans achieved at short (1-2 years), medium (3-4 years) and long term (5 years) time points in regional NSW?
  2. What works, and what doesn’t work, in the process of implementing the regional sport and active recreation plans in the varied areas of regional NSW at short (1-2 years), medium (3-4 years) and long term (5 years) time points in regional NSW?  

Regional Sport and Active Recreation Plans Snapshot (PDF, 783.13 KB)

Evidence based policy

Collating best practice evidence to translate and inform policy processes and strategic decision making. 

Voucher scheme review  (PDF, 1.5 MB)

Women in sport participation review (PDF, 2.7 MB)

7 best buys  (PDF, 1.91 MB)

Sector capability and capacity

Build research capability across the sport and physical activity sector through collaboration and partnerships to enhance delivery and decision making. 

CASRO review – Inactive and active Australians (PDF, 2.16 MB)

Hockey NSW analysis - available on request
Netball NSW analysis - available on request
Softball NSW analysis - available on request

National sport plan consultation

Quantifying the impact of sport and active recreation (PDF, 2.52 MB)

Symposia and events

SPRINTER annual symposia provide an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the impact of SPRINTER work. 

2018 SPRINTER symposia wrap up (PDF, 686.19 KB)

2019 SPRINTER symposia wrap up (PDF, 517.39 KB)

Sport NSW event presentations - available on request

Research and academia

Contribution to building and enhancing the academic evidence base for health, wealth and wellbeing promotion through physical activity and sport.  The SPRINTER team engage with academic and scholarly activity in Australia and around the world.

Bridget Foley PhD – Active Kids 

Financial incentives paper

  • Cost is commonly cited as a barrier for participation in community sport in Australia. To overcome this, significant  attention has been given to the use of financial incentives, such as sports vouchers, with five states and territories in Australia adopting this approach since 2011.
  • Participation in community sport and the amount Australians spend on community sport is associated with location, with individuals living in most advantaged areas spending more and playing more sport, than disadvantaged communities.
  • Across Australia, financial incentives contribute over 60% of total expenditure for families living in the most disadvantaged areas. 
  • State-wide participation strategies, including the implementation of voucher programs, present a clear opportunity to promote participation in sport through their impact on financial costs of sport participation.
  • Financial incentives, such as sport vouchers, should be a part of a multi-component approach to get more people active everyday and should focus on communities living in the most disadvantaged areas. 

Getting Australia Active III

View PDF (PDF, 7.46 MB)

Getting Australia Active III (GAAIII) is an evidence-based guide designed to support policy makers with adopting or strengthening a whole-of-systems approach to physical activity in Australia. It has been developed by the Australian Systems Approaches to Physical Activity (ASAPa) project, a national initiative led by researchers at The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre and the University of Sydney with funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund. 

It is the first such guide on a systems approach to physical activity in the world, and provides guidance for health and non-health sectors in developing physical activity-relevant policies and programs. It presents design specifications on effective policies and programs across 8 policy domains, guidance on priority investments, case studies and links to online resources. A series of ‘summary briefs’ on key areas will shortly accompany this guide. 

GAAIII updates the evidence published in previous editions of Getting Australia Active in 2002 and 2004, and incorporates additional guidance to support government policy makers in Australia with implementing the actions recommended by the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity. It provides timely guidance given the current consultation on a new 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy, and supports work in State-level planning or a possible National Physical Activity Strategy.

Linking sports registration information and player feedback to enhance netball participation

  • Netball leads the sports sector by engaging and retaining large numbers of female participants; This is important because females often participate in less sport than males. 
  • Netball has significant positive impacts on the lives of players. Netball players reported enhanced social connection, strength and fitness, skills and coordination, energy levels and overall health through regular participation in netball. For children, additional positives impacts of netball were improvements in their ability to work in a team and improved self-confidence. 
  • The main reasons to play netball are  ‘For fun/enjoyment’, followed by the social motivation of ‘being part of a team’. 
  •  Almost three-quarters of children use an Active Kids voucher to reduce netball registration costs. Retention of children in netball was twice as likely if they used an Active Kids voucher.
  • This study and the ongoing research partnership between the University of Sydney and Netball NSW enables Netball NSW to make evidence-based decisions to grow participation and increase player retention ahead of the 2027 Netball World Cup in Sydney.

View article


Dr Lindsey Reece talks about Getting Australia Active III and the Australasian Society for Physical Activity, plus much more on the Collective Leisure podcast.



Dr Lindsey Reece from SPRINTER partnership discusses #PhysicalActivity advocacy with Trevor Shilton from the Heart Foundation. Everyone can be a physical activity advocate. Whether it’s an email, a social media post, a letter to a minister, all forms of advocacy count, are important and are encouraged. Be clear and consistent in your key messages for physical activity. Not sure where to start? Use the 7 best investments for physical activity. Physical activity advocacy can be positively challenging, so be persistent, persistent, persistent, and persistent!

Dr Lindsey Reece on Physical Activity Researcher Podcast

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