Are we dooming our children to a dark health future

Latest figures on the diet and lifestyle of Australia’s children signal a troubling future for their health unless governments implement an effective national response , the Consumers Health Forum says.

“The Australia’s Health Tracker statistics released today should disturb us all as they indicate that many children now have higher risk factors for poor health than their parents,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said. “In many instances the risk factors are even worse for Indigenous children.

“The danger signals for our children are showing that in crucial aspects children are already following less healthy lifestyles and diets than their parents, in areas like physical activity and consumption of junk food and too much sugar.

“For instance, 70.8 per cent of children aged 5 – 11 years are not meeting physical activity recommendations and that compares with 44.5 per cent of adults. A brighter feature in the otherwise bleak picture for Indigenous children is that fewer, 40.5 per cent, do not meet the physical activity target.  But when it comes to children who are overweight or obese, 32.8 per cent of Indigenous children are in this category compared to 25.6 per cent for children overall in this age group.

“More than 70 per cent of children aged 9 – 13 years consume too much sugar compared to 47.8 per cent of adults.

“Is Australian society dooming its children too shorter, less healthy lives by failing to take the steps now that we need to take to encourage more physical activity and discourage unhealthy food and drink consumption?

“The picture portrayed in the Health Tracker data compiled by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration highlights the need for a systemic national approach to focus on common risk factors, tackling health inequities and disparities.

“Both medical leader, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, and financial guru Alan Kohler, told the National Press Club launch of the new report today that stronger preventive health measures would save our society billions in reducing illness and early death and avoidable hospital costs.  As Mr Kohler said, “sugar in my view needs to be more expensive” to reflect its cost to health care.

“Currently Australia dedicates only 1.5 per cent of its health expenditure to prevention which could help reduce the widespread incidence of chronic disease that afflicts one in every two Australians.  What is needed now would not bankrupt the budget. But it would represent a healthy investment in Australia’s future,” Ms Wells said.

“We need to rethink prevention and take a longer-term view about where we should be investing in health.”

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Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986