Australian Government push to combat the obesity epidemic

A new grants package for school communities is part of a $116 million Australian Government push to combat the obesity epidemic.

The Building a Healthy, Active Australia package will be launched by the Prime Minister in Launceston today.

As part of the package, the Australian Government is establishing a $15 million grant programme to help schools, families and children develop healthy eating practices.

At present in Australia, more than half of the population is overweight or obese and this includes 1.5 million people under 18 years of age. Nearly a quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese.

The Federal Health and Ageing Minister, Tony Abbott, said he would write to all schools in July to invite organisations such as parent associations, school auxiliaries, canteen and other groups to apply for a grant of up to $1,500 per school to fund activities that promote healthy living and healthy eating.

Projects may include developing healthy school canteen menus, school vegetable gardens, healthy cooking classes and lunchboxes, and awards for students.

“A healthy diet and physical activity are important in maintaining healthy body weight and reducing the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes,” Mr Abbott said.

As part of the package, the Australian Government is also providing $11 million for an information programme to raise awareness of the vital role healthy eating and regular physical activity plays in the wellbeing of Australia’s children, and to provide practical advice for parents and children.

“Young people who are overweight or obese are at substantially increased risk of chronic conditions such as Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancers and musculoskeletal conditions,” Mr Abbott said.

“Obesity is a global problem which threatens to increase the incidence and onset of largely preventable diseases and it is vital we encourage our kids to understand the importance of a good diet and physical activity.”

Physical inactivity and high blood pressure were the second and third most common risk factors contributing to disease in Australia in 1996. Good nutrition contributes to good health and the Healthy School Communities programme will help build a healthier nation for our children.

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