Tackling childhood obesity
Why is this important to the people of NSW?
Children who are above a healthy weight can have psychological, social and health issues. Immediate health problems can include asthma, bone and joint complications, sleep disturbance, with earlier onset of diabetes and heart disease.
Our research tells us that in 2016 in NSW:
- 22 per cent of children aged 5-16 years were above a healthy weight
- only 26 per cent of children were active enough
- 43 per cent spent more than two hours per day on TV and computer games
- 45 per cent of children regularly drink sweetened drinks
- 62 per cent of children eat enough fruit and only five per cent of eat enough vegetables.
How are we tracking?
So far, our programs have helped stabilise overweight and obesity rates in children in NSW to 21.9 per cent (247,000 children) in 2016.
By June 2025 we will have reduced overweight and obesity rates by five percentage points within 10 years. That means 62,000 more children will be a healthy weight in NSW.
Programs to tackle childhood obesity
What are we doing?
Increasing community education and awareness
We will drive partnerships with key stakeholders to support children and young people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
We are emphasising the positive benefits of healthy eating and active living for the whole family. Right now, we are:
- improving Make Healthy Normal with new messages for families
- supporting GPs and health professionals to identify children above a healthy weight and refer them to appropriate programs, such as Go4Fun
- helping people make lower-kilojoule choices when eating out through the NSW menu labelling initiative.
Healthy eating in school canteens
The healthy school canteen strategy focuses on increasing the availability of healthy food and drink options in school canteens to make the healthy choice. This includes introducing new simpler canteen guidelines for all of our schools with public schools transitioning over a three-year period (2017-19).
Helping kids to get active
Parents and guardians can claim up to $100 in vouchers per school child each calendar year to reduce the cost of registration and participation for sport and fitness activities.
The Active Kids initiative aims to get more children and young people participating in physical activity in NSW. Vouchers are not means-tested and are available to every school child wanting to get active through sport and recreation.
We agree there is more to do
Our next areas of focus are:
- enhancing the Go4Fun® community-based program for Aboriginal families, and delivering an adapted program to regional and remote communities through face-to-face group discussions, online and over the phone
- extending the Get Healthy in Pregnancy service to more people across NSW to all public maternity services
- promoting uptake of new NSW weight management tool for health professionals
- implementing a framework to provide healthy food and drinks in health facilities, for example hospitals.
Blackheath Public School – Healthy School Canteens
As part of the Premier’s Priority to reduce childhood obesity rates, the Department of Education has launched its Healthy School Canteens strategy to promote healthy eating in schools. The strategy aims to increase the availability of nutritious food and drink options in school canteens to encourage students to make healthy choices.
Health surveys show most Australian children need to make changes to their diet for their well-being, and to establish healthy eating practices in later years. With around half of all students buying their lunch at school at least once a week, school canteens play a vital role in educating children about healthy eating.
Blackheath Public School is one school that has a self-funded Healthy School Canteen. Produce grown by students at the school during gardening classes is used by the canteen to make healthy meals and educate children about where their food comes from. Volunteer involvement and cultural food days have also helped to foster a sense of community around the school’s canteen.
Canobolas Rural Technology High School – Café-style canteen
Canobolas Rural Technology High School provides students with a café-style menu and environment to purchase a range of healthy, freshly cooked food and drink. They show that adolescents will choose healthy foods when it is presented and promoted positively.
What can you do?
Parents and carers can offer healthy food options and get active with their kids! Communities can also support healthy living by making sure there is access to fresh, affordable food and ways to encourage activity, such as safe playgrounds and cycleways.
- Check your child or teenagers weight status using this handy weight status calculator
- If you are a health professional take a look at these resources on the Healthy Kids for Professionals website
- Help your family and local community develop healthy habits with Make Healthy Normal
- If you think your child is above a healthy weight, check out Go4Fun®
- Help your kids to eat well and be active with the Healthy Kids website
- Approach your early childhood service about participating in Munch & Move
- Contact your child's primary school about introducing Live Life Well @ School
- Ask your sports club to Finish With the Right Stuff
- Ask your school what is being done to promote healthy eating, and support the school's efforts to implement the Healthy School Canteens strategy
- Support your school's efforts to implement the NSW Premier’s Sporting Challenge