Tackling childhood obesity
Why is this important?
We’re taking action to reduce overweight and obesity rates of children by five per cent within 10 years – that means 62,000 more children who are a healthy weight in 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 2015:
- 22 per cent of NSW children aged 5-16 years were above a healthy weight.
- Only 29 per cent of children are active enough, and 44 per cent spend more than two hours per day on TV and computer games.
- 64 per cent of children eat enough fruit and only five per cent of children eat enough vegetables.
- 25 per cent of teenagers drink sugary drinks more than five times a week.
We want to support families as best we can - children who are a healthy weight have a much greater chance of becoming adults of a healthy weight.
How is the government tracking?
So far, our evidence-based programs have contributed to stabilising rates of child overweight and obesity in NSW to 22 per cent in 2015.
The problem cannot be solved by the health system alone and we will drive partnerships with key stakeholders to support children and young people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life. It's important that efforts to tackle the issue of obesity do not stigmatise children, but emphasise the positive benefits of healthy eating and active living for the whole family. Right now, we are:
- Enhancing Make Healthy Normal social marketing campaign with new messages for families.
- Supporting GPs and health professionals to identify children above a healthy weight and refer them to appropriate programs.
- Supporting the NSW menu labelling initiative to help people make lower-kilojoule choices when eating out.
- Creating guidelines for the planning, design and development of healthy built environments.
Our built environment counts
The built environment where children live, learn and play is vital to their physical and mental health. Our cities and towns need to make it easy for people to be active and to easily access fresh, affordable, nutritious food – from local shops or nearby community gardens. This can only happen if health and urban design professionals work together on strategies to make walking easy, promote recreation, and provide open and green space.
We agree there is more to do
Our next areas of focus are:
- increasing the availability of healthy food and drink options within school canteen menus, with public schools to transition over three years
- enhancing the Go4Fun® community-based program for Aboriginal families, and delivering an adapted program to regional and remote communities that is not delivered face-to-face
- extending the Get Healthy in Pregnancy service to more people across NSW, with 45 hospitals including 15 regional sites already involved.
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.
- Help your family 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