While individuals make the daily choices around their health and wellbeing, the ACT Government is supporting healthy decision-making through healthy living initiatives to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
The ACT prides itself on being the healthiest place in Australia, with longer life expectancy, lower rates of major illness and more active and healthy lifestyles than other jurisdictions. Nevertheless, like many wealthy urban populations around the world, our collective health is threatened by dramatic increases in overweight and obesity.
The Healthy Weight Action Plan, launched in October 2013, forms the basis of the ACT Government’s approach to addressing the rising rates of overweight and obesity in the ACT. The bold target of ‘zero growth’ has been established to meet this objective. It is a whole of government initiative that builds upon the many programs and initiatives already in place across government and the ACT community. The ACT Government is committed to supporting a healthy and productive Canberra community.
How are we focusing our attention to build active and healthy lifestyles?
The ACT Government has identified six areas which target the many factors contributing to obesity and overweight, with a broad goal of increasing physical activity and improving nutrition both within the government and across the ACT.
These actions follow an extensive process carried out by a whole-of government taskforce, setup to make sure all arms of government play a part in responding to this government priority in collaboration with key non-government and academic organisations. As a result of this approach the actions have strong support throughout government and will be implemented across traditional agency boundaries.
The six themes are:
Action in schools is a high priority because good nutritional and exercise habits, if learned early, can make a lasting contribution to good health throughout life. Research also shows that physically active children perform better in the classroom, which is an important flow-on benefit.
Workplaces play an important role in shaping the lifestyle of adults, most of whom spend about half of their waking hours at work. The food which is available in the workplace, the availability of facilities that support physical activity and workplace culture all have a strong influence on people’s food and exercise choices. Evidence shows that healthier workplaces enjoy the benefits of higher productivity, lower absenteeism and better staff morale.
- Urban planning
There is growing recognition that the built environment influences levels of physical activity, whether for transport or recreation. Good urban planning can shape our neighbourhoods to encourage active recreation and the active travel options of walking, cycling and public transport.
- Social inclusion
Although overweight and obesity affects 63.6% of the ACT population, obesity rates are highest in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage. There is a need for educational and incentive-based initiatives to improve skills in buying and preparing healthy foods, and to build greater confidence among some in the community.
- Food environment
Food choices are shaped by the environment around us – our shops, workplaces, schools and through the media. Often this environment makes it too easy to choose unhealthy foods and can crowd out healthy food messages from other sources.
Accurate and timely information about the health of the ACT population, health risks and health services is crucial for planning and evaluating actions aimed at preventing overweight and obesity.