Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey finds obesity remains a concern

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd October 2008

The Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey has found that 72 per cent of 2-16 year old children were of a healthy weight, but 17 per cent were overweight, 6 per cent obese and 5 per cent underweight.

The results of the 2007 survey were released today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Jan McLucas; the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke; and the Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Kate Carnell.

The survey results also discovered that 69 per cent of children met the physical activity guidelines of at least one hour of moderate or vigorous exercise each day.

The survey collected data on food intake, physical activity levels and the physical measurements of over 4000 children across Australia and was the first survey of its kind to involve both Government and the food industry.

Senator McLucas believes the survey results highlight the importance of a commitment to tackling obesity, particularly childhood obesity, and reinforced the value of establishing healthy eating and regular exercise patterns for children’s health and wellbeing. The Government will ask the National Preventative Health Taskforce, made up of health experts from around Australia, to consider the implications of the results.

The Taskforce was established earlier this year by the Government to spearhead an increased focus on preventative health, and develop strategies to deal with health challenges such as obesity. The findings are to be used as the basis for the Government’s new health strategy, which is likely to be in place by the middle of next year.

“These survey results are a call to action for all concerned – the Government, food industry and nutrition and physical activity experts – to work together to promote good nutrition and regular exercise within the community,” Senator McLucas said. “We owe it to our children – and indeed the wider Australian community – to encourage a healthy lifestyle.”

The survey showed that younger children were more likely to consume diets consistent with the recommendations of the Australian Dietary Guidelines. In particular, intake of fruit and vegetables was significantly higher for younger age groups compared to older children, suggesting the healthy message may be beginning to filter through.

Mr Burke reported that Australia’s food and agriculture industries would continue to provide fresh, high quality foods to encourage good eating habits from childhood into adulthood. “Australia has the best and the most healthy food in the world,” Mr Burke proclaimed. “The Rudd Government will continue to support our food industries through investing in research and boosting innovation right along the food production chain.”

Ms Carnell added that the food industry would use the results of the survey to guide the continued development of products that increasingly meet the taste and nutritional needs of children and families. “The value in having both physical activity and food intake in a single survey was that it helps to identify where we need to focus our joint efforts to help families construct a healthy diet and undertake more appropriate levels of physical activity,” she said.

The $3 million survey was funded jointly by the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Australian Food and Grocery Council. For more information about the survey, please visit: www.health.gov.au/nutritionmonitoring.