Script for a healthier Australia: small steps and big savings
The latest Australia’s Health report provides persuasive evidence for a concerted national strategy to counter obesity and reduce chronic disease, the Consumers Health Forum, said today.
Small, personal lifestyle changes in diet and exercise could deliver big health gains, the report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows.
“There is great potential to improve our own and our children’s diets and exercise at relatively low immediate cost but profound long term benefits to the community,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, says.
“Surely we need to reconsider our national health policies when it is considered for instance that 99 per cent of children do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables and more than two thirds do not follow the recommended limits on consumption of free sugars.
“And the report finds Australians are not doing the recommended amount of exercise for their age each week and this is most pronounced among adolescents where 92 per cent do not get enough exercise.
“Many chronic conditions share common risk factors, such as excess body weight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and insufficient physical activity --- all of which can be modified through lifestyle changes.
“By reducing our exposure to these modifiable risk factors, Australia could cut its total disease burden by a third, the report says.
“If all Australians were in the normal weight range, the incidence of diseases like diabetes could be halved and coronary heart disease and stroke would be reduced by more than 20 per cent.
“These chronic conditions generate great suffering and billions of dollars in health costs and lost production to the community.
“Yet a comprehensive and effective preventive health strategy that provides the support and stimulus for people to make modest changes in their lives provides great potential to benefit Australia.
“The Consumers Health Forum has previously urged the Federal Government to put the future health of our children first by introducing measures which include:
- Laws to stop exposure of children to unhealthy food and drink marketing on free to air television until 9.30 pm
- Mandatory healthy food star rating from July 2019 along with stronger food reformulation targets
- A national activity strategy to promote walking, cycling and public transport use
- A 20 per cent health levy on sugary drinks.
“Australia’s Health provides further evidence to support these measures,” Ms Wells said.