It was promising to see the Government reinforce its commitment this week to the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program announced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget. However, there is so much more that councils could do in partnership with the Commonwealth to address public health issues, including obesity.
Overweight and obesity is a major public health issue in Australia but is particularly concerning among our kids and teens. One in four children aged 2 – 17 years old are overweight or obese, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This puts them at a higher risk of breathing difficulties, fractures, hypertension, insulin resistance, and early markers of cardiovascular disease.
We can’t deny that more needs to be done to protect our children from a future of poor health from being overweight or obese.
The Senate is looking into the obesity epidemic in Australia – with a focus on childhood obesity – in its recently-established Inquiry into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia.
ALGA’s submission to the inquiry outlines local government’s important role in addressing this issue, not from a medical perspective, but rather from a preventative and community-based approach. Research and evidence supports the links between people’s overall physical and mental health and the environments in which they live, and councils play a key role in planning, building and managing many of these places.
But for councils to be able to contribute significantly to this important health issues in our communities, further funding assistance is critical. Unfortunately, important health preventative initiatives such as the Healthy Communities Initiative have now ceased.
ALGA recommended that the committee recognise the important role local government has in addressing the obesity epidemic by supporting a financial package from the Federal Government of $100 million over four years to invest in a Local Government Place Based Preventative Health Fund – echoing our budget submission earlier this year.
Tackling the consequences of unhealthy food and drink, reversing the impacts of overweight and obesity, and promoting access and choices of healthy foods and drinks will take a coordinated partnership from all three spheres of government as well as engagement with businesses and communities.
ALGA’s full submission is available on its website.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr John Pritchard, ALGA's Head of Policy, on his retirement and acknowledge his tremendous work during his 24 years at ALGA. Thank you for your time and significant contribution to local government. I hope you work just as hard at relaxing as you have in your long career.
Mayor David O’Loughlin