New program tackles Canberra’s childhood obesity crisis

More than half a million dollars has funded a program to tackle Canberra’s growing childhood obesity crisis.

The $571,000 ACT Medicare Local’s Connect Up 4 Kids Program was launched on Monday to support parents around the capital to improve their children’s eating and exercise habits. 

The Healthy Canberra Grants initiative will be funded over three years and distribute printed and online information resources to general practices across the capital, targeting families of children aged three to seven years old.

Minister for Health Simon Corbell said childhood obesity was a serious health issue in the ACT.

Data from 2011 to 2012 showed about one quarter of Canberra children aged five to 17 years were overweight or obese.

Mr Corbell said the new program was one facet of the ACT government’s broader strategy to tackle obesity and chronic disease later in life.

“[Obesity] means a legacy headed towards us of long-term lifestyle-related diseases,” he said.

“It’s about encouraging and educating parents that there are healthy choices that are easy to put together, are quick and easy to deliver to kids and are probably cheaper in the long run as well.

“The ACT Government is committed to supporting a healthy, active and productive community and has made it a priority to address the challenging levels of obesity, particularly amongst children.”

An online Connect Up 4 Kids resource folder filled with fact sheets, information brochures, physical activity guidelines and other tips will offer simple, cost-effective ideas.

Mr Corbell said the folder’s materials were focused around seven key messages: Move Your Body, Switch of Screens, Good Night Sleep Tight, Be Healthy Together, Munch on Veg, Enjoy Some Fruit and Choose to Drink Water.  

“This will be a great way to reach a large number of people in the population and reinforce these health messages and help kids lead more healthy, active lives,” he said. 

“These messages complement existing campaigns already in place within Canberra, such as Good Habits for Life and Tucker Talk.”

ACT Medicare Local chairman Dr Martin Liedvogel said the program provided general practitioners and practice nurses with education, up-skilling opportunities and a toolkit of resources to pass on to families.

The initiative also creates clearer pathways to refer parents and their children to appropriate follow-up services, he said.

“It will give general practice a one-stop-shop toolkit of the latest information and services available in Canberra, so they can provide the most appropriate and timely advice for parents and their kids,” Dr Liedvogel said.