ACT govt gets tough on obesity

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THE government will restrict the advertising of unhealthy food outlets and regulate the sale of sugary drinks as part of an action plan to reduce the level of obesity in the ACT. obese

Launched today by Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher, “Towards Zero Growth” sets out the goal of zero growth in obesity within the ACT, focusing on strategies that make active and healthy lifestyle choices “easier”.

Despite the ACT population being the healthiest in Australia, the proportion of children who are overweight or obese is at 25 per cent, and for adults it has risen to 63.6 per cent, from just 22.9 per cent in 1995. Some predictions have the figure for adults rising to 80 per cent by the year 2025.

Ms Gallagher says the “do-nothing” approach is “unsustainable.”

“Towards Zero Growth takes a whole of government view to promote healthy lifestyles,” she says.

“Some of the actions are straight forward whilst others will be more controversial and require discussion, consultation and support if they are to be implemented.”

Key actions in the plan include improving the availability of healthy food and drink options in ACT Government workplaces and events, a Chief Minister’s award scheme to reward healthy workplaces and food outlets and restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods within the government’s regulatory control.

The document also proposes increasing the availability of free drinking water in public places and food outlets; a mandatory code for supermarkets to require at least one checkout isle to be free of energy dense, nutrient poor foods, and regulating the sale of sugary drinks.

Ms Gallagher says all of the strategies would be guided by detailed consultation with industry and key stakeholders as well as regulatory impact analysis when required.

“It has taken many years for our unhealthy lifestyles to create this weight problem and it will take many more to start to turn it around. In many ways it will require similar efforts to those undertaken to reduce smoking rates across the community,” she says.

“Whilst we have many programs targeted to promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing obesity this action plan sets out an agenda for government to work on. The goal of zero growth in obesity will only be realised if there is a sustained effort across all government policy areas and the changes are embraced across the community.”

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