The Labor/Greens Government agreement has ramifications for children’s health policy write student journalist, Alyson Vardos.

The new Government has agreed to work with other jurisdictions to implement a ban on “junk food” advertising to children during children’s television. It will also allocate $2.1 million for a Health Promotions Grants program, which will focus on achieving positive health outcomes for children, including programs that improve children’s health through canteens, food education and school gardens.

In the lead up to the October 20 election, both the Labor Government and the Greens proposed funding for school canteen upgrades and the implementation of the sales of healthier food.

The ACT P&C Council met this positively, as they had been advocating for the failing canteen business models and canteen closures around Canberra for some time.

Before the election, the ACT Labor Government announced that if re-elected, they would aim for a “zero-growth”target of obesity rates in the nation’s capital, with current rates being the ACT’s absolute peak. $500,000 has already been committed to the installation of water bottle refill stations in schools as well as a promise tosupply reusable drink bottles to any school that agrees to end the sale of sugary drinks in their school.

These new policies will be implemented over the next few years and P&C spokesperson, Jena Dobie says that hopefully the extra funding for canteen upgrades will also be implemented soon.

“Canteens are suffering from problems other than the range food they serve to children and we would like to see them getting some help. Selling healthy food is more expensive for school canteens which poses a problem as few schools can run canteens successfully, many more are closing down or in distress,” she said.

“Failing business models and dwindling numbers of volunteers to help out are what is really hurting canteens at the moment, so funding for the canteens themselves and not just changing the food will help immensely as many just don’t currently have the capacity to fulfill healthy food expectations.”

Despite the rise in obesity rates in Australia, the ABS health survey results did show some positive results. Over half (55.6%) of all Australians aged 15 years and over considered themselves to be in very good or excellent health, while only 4.0% rated their health as poor.

Now is a better time than ever to implement new children’s health policy, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have released the first results for the 2011-12 Health Survey on the 29th of October. The research shows that obesity rates have risen since the 2007/08. The survey found the rate ofoverweight and obesity in adults aged 18 years and over has risen to 63.4% in 2011-12 from 61.2% in 2007-08 and 56.3% in 1995. The rate of overweight and obesity in children aged 5-17 is sitting at 25.3% in 2011-12.

Results from the National Health Survey will be released progressively throughout 2012 – 13. The next results are set to be released in February 2013.


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