NSW Obesity Strategy warmly received by AFGC

Posted by James Ferre on 5th August 2008

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, the national body representing Australia’s food and grocery products manufacturers today welcomed the New South Wales Government’s $36 million initiative aimed at tackling obesity.

The NSW Government yesterday unveiled their ‘Obesity Strategy’, with a $36 million commitment designed to decrease obesity levels amongst children from 25 per cent to 22 per cent by 2016. It involves a social marketing campaign, a research centre, advice line, parenting program and the introduction of obesity medical and surgical clinics.

NSW Minister for Health, Reba Meagher, said the NSW Health Obesity Strategy includes programs aimed at helping people avoid becoming overweight and obese, but it also recognises that more needs to be done to help those who are already overweight or obese. “Obesity levels across NSW have soared in the past decade and are now at record levels, with more than half of all adults and a quarter of all children overweight or obese,” Ms Meagher reported. “Those figures are alarming – and unless we do something to address the rising number of overweight and obese people living in NSW we will see significantly higher levels of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), the national body representing Australia’s food and grocery products manufacturers, today welcomed the initiative aimed at tackling obesity. “The AFGC welcomes the NSW Government’s recognition that they have a significant role to play in assisting Australians with obesity health-related conditions,” AFGC Chief Executive, Kate Carnell, said.

The AFGC reports that the food industry has already responded positively to public health concerns regarding obesity by partnering with governments on a number of initiatives that promote physical activity and balanced nutrition. “Minister Meagher’s announcement represents just some of the practical measures that can be undertaken to assist Australians suffering obesity health-related conditions,” Ms Carnell added. “The AFGC looks forward to continuing to work with governments the nation over to help develop programs which will deliver positive public health outcomes.”

Components of the Obesity Strategy:

* Social Marketing Campaign – Following on from the eat healthy message of ‘Go for 2 and 5’ the Government is planning to promote water as a suitable alternative to cordial, soft drinks and fruit juices.

* Get Healthy Advice Line – Telephone line will be staffed by trained health professionals (based on the success of Quitline for smokers)

* Parenting Program – Structured program which includes activities for children and educational programs for parents. The focus will be on healthy lifestyle (not weight loss) and a whole-of-family approach.

* Obesity Prevention Research Centre – Based at the University of Sydney, it is designed to provide government agencies with up-to-date information on obesity prevention strategies. Anticipated to lead and support key intervention research activities across the state.

* Obesity Medical and Surgical Clinics – Medical clinics are to be established over the next four years in all eight Area Health Services and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, with surgical clinics operating in six Area Health Services by 2011-12 (first clinic to open in the Sydney South West Area Health Service by the end of this year).
People will be referred to the clinics by a doctor and will only be considered for bariatric surgery after assessment and approval by the multidisciplinary team and an endocrinologist and after all medical options have been exhausted. Criteria for bariatric surgery includes aged 20 to 55 years; BMI greater than 35 with a co-morbidity of type 2 diabetes; absence of other serious medical illness; absences of acute psychiatric condition or drug dependency; unsuccessful medical weight loss attempts; and assessed as fit for surgery.

“… there is clear evidence that drastic and determined action is needed to turnaround the obesity epidemic which is costing NSW around $7 billion a year, and this strategy provides the framework for us to work toward that goal,” Ms Meagher concluded.