Children and Young People who are Overweight or Obese
The proportion of ACT children and young people (5-24 years) who are overweight or obese.
What do we measure?
Measured, not self-reported, height and weight of children and young people (5-24 years) in the ACT.
Why is this important?
Children who are not sufficiently physically active and do not have a balanced, well-proportioned diet are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. The rising prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity is now considered a serious global public health issue with the World Health Organization (WHO) describing it as an 'obesity epidemic' in some countries.44
Prevention of childhood obesity needs high priority because overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, at a younger age.
The ACT Government continues to invest in whole-of-government efforts to prevent and reduce overweight and obesity. This has included, most recently, the Towards Zero Growth: Healthy Weight Action Plan,45 which was launched in 2013. Key results include zero growth in obesity and overweight in kindergarten children, and continued reduction in the regular consumption of sugary drinks by children.
The government has committed to build on this initiative through the development of a preventive health strategy, with a focus on reducing the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other preventable health conditions.
The ACT is contributing to the development of national actions to limit the impact of unhealthy food and drinks on children, with a focus on settings (health care, schools and children's sport and recreation), food promotion and food regulation. The actions are being progressed under the auspice of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council.
The ACT was one of the first Australian jurisdictions to introduce kilojoule display laws at standard food outlets. The laws require affected outlets to display the energy content (in kilojoules) of their standard food and drink items. The requirements, which have been in effect since 1 January 2013, aim to support the health of Canberrans by providing information to enable healthier (lower kilojoule) food and drink choices.
Since September 2015, 'junk' food marketing has been restricted on Transport Canberra buses. The aim of the policy is to reduce children's exposure to unhealthy food and drink marketing.
ACT Health - in partnerships with government, community and private sectors - delivers a range of initiatives and campaigns that improve the health and wellbeing of ACT children and young people and contribute towards reducing the rates of overweight and obesity. These initiatives include:
- Kids at Play Active Play is a free capacity-building program that offers training for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services in the ACT. Designed to help early childhood educators feel confident to promote active play and teach fundamental movement skills to children aged 3-5 years in ECEC services, this training includes practical 'hands-on' skills sessions to assist educators to apply the learnings in their ECEC setting.
- Fresh Tastes supports schools make healthy food and drinks a bigger part of everyday life for Canberra's children. The service offers teacher professional learning, curriculum resources and services from partners and financial grants. Fresh Tastes supports a whole-school approach to influence food and drink culture.
- Ride or Walk to School aims to build the capacity of schools to actively support and encourage students to ride or walk to school through teacher professional learning, student learning and supporting provision of infrastructure and resources. An independent evaluation released in 2017 found that the initiative had been successful in increasing the proportion of primary school students participating in the active travel program.
- Entrepreneurs: It's Your Move (IYM) focuses on student-led innovation in ACT high schools and encourages students to develop creative solutions to improve health and wellbeing at their school. It uses design thinking and mapping to support design, implementation and evaluation of a health improvement project. Entrepreneurs IYM includes interactive student and teacher toolkits, online teacher professional learning, seed funding to implement their project and inter-school networking opportunities.
- Good habits for life is a locally-developed social marketing campaign, targeting families with young children to engage parents in healthy lifestyle behaviours. The campaign was launched in 2014, and has been supported by three waves of TV, radio and online advertising.
One of the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program's funding priorities is to reduce overweight and obesity through improving eating habits and increasing physical activity.
How is the ACT Progressing?
Source: ABS, National Health Survey, 2007-15
Between 2011 and 2015, the proportion of ACT children aged 5-17 years who are overweight or obese has been relatively stable. The ACT data are comparable to national estimates. For example, 20.2 per cent of Australian children aged 5-17 years were overweight and 7.4 per cent were obese in 2014-15 (Figure 26).
Source: ABS, National Health Survey, 2007-15
In recent years, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of ACT young people aged 18-24 years who are overweight or obese. In 2014-15, 22 per cent of Australians aged 18-24 years were overweight and 17.1 per cent were obese (Figure 27).
Note There are no new data for children 5-17 years. The proportion of 18-24 year olds who are overweight or obese is a new indicator for this report.
44 WHO 2005, Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, .
45 ACT Government, Towards Zero Growth: Healthy Weight Action Plan