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 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 21.4 per cent (247,000 children) in 2017.
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?
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.
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).
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.
Marrickville Public School – Made to order
Just about everything on the menu is made from scratch at Wil’s Canteen at Marrickville Public School in Sydney’s inner west. The canteen is operated by Wil Angus, who likes to make the food fun as well as healthy and appealing.
“What can be good for you can also taste good, be interesting, be enjoyable and be a talking point," said Mr Angus.
Principal Kerry Chambers says healthy eating also impacts on the students’ learning as well as their physical wellbeing.
“They feel healthy, they feel happier and they learn more," said Ms Chambers.
The canteen’s healthy menu reinforces the healthy living lessons taught in the school and is a hit with parents.
“The Healthy School Canteens Strategy was a perfect fit for our community," said Ms Chambers.
Grays Point Public School - Going healthy with gusto
Grays Point Public School approached the Healthy School Canteens Strategy with gusto, including canteen staff, volunteers, students and families in the decision making and sharing in the learning as they embarked on a six-month transition.
The school’s canteen is P&C run and had traditionally sold ‘heat and serve’ products. Principal Narelle Betts-Smith said the menu now features as much fresh food as possible.
“My biggest concern was around changing the treats we sold; however kids are now happily buying fresh fruit and yoghurt," said Mrs Betts-Smith.
The P&C’s canteen coordinator, Justine Williams, was instrumental in the transition – researching the new strategy, surveying parents and even trying out recipes at home.
“I also liaised with the Healthy Kids Association and the canteen manager and I attended workshops with the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, which did a menu assessment and review for us," Mrs Williams said.
Once the menu was locked in, Mrs Betts-Smith spent a few weeks spreading the word before it was unveiled.
“I would promote it by visiting classrooms and saying, 'Have you heard about what will be on sale at the new canteen?'," Mrs Betts-Smith said.
The excitement built, the shutters opened, and the rest is history. “I’ve never heard a student say, “Why don’t we have this or that anymore?” Mrs Betts-Smith said.
“It was managed respectfully and it all went really well. Everyone did a marvellous job over a short period of time.”
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