ACT News


Health plan to put fat, sugar out of easy reach

Fatty foods and sugary drinks would be removed or hidden from easy view in the Canberra Hospital and other ACT Health Directorate buildings, under proposals being considered to improve the diet of staff and visitors.

At least 80 per cent of foods and drinks sold in Health Directorate vending machines, canteens and cafes would have to be "green'' or "amber'' health-rated, under recommendations published in a discussion paper.

"Red'' category items, such as chocolates, soft drink, lollies, cakes, slices and deep-fried food, would no longer be used for fund-raising, rewards, incentives, gifts or giveaways.

The red foods would be removed from eye-level in vending machines.

If the changes are implemented and prove successful in the Health Directorate, they could eventually be rolled out across the ACT Public Service.

ACT Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said the discussion paper did not propose banning junk food from Health Directorate buildings, but did suggest ways to make it easier for people to choose healthy meals and beverages.


"We're trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice for people,'' Dr Kelly said.

"At the moment for many of the food choices in the hospital there is no healthy choice - or the healthy choice is difficult. So we're proposing to flip that on its head.''

The discussion paper has been the subject of a continuing consultation process with staff and the general public. The discussion has not included the meals served to hospital inpatients and the initiative would not apply to food and drinks brought into Health buildings for personal use.

Dr Kelly said changes being considered included rearranging the composition and placement of items in vending machines.

"Have a green sticker on the healthy items in a vending machine, have them at eye-level, have the less healthy item at the bottom,'' he said.

About 55 per cent of Health Directorate staff who took part in a 2011 survey were found to be overweight or obese.

Dr Kelly said the ACT was lagging behind the Northern Territory and the six states when it came to the food provided to Health Directorate staff and volunteers.

"We've got to get our own act together; it's just a no-brainer that the hospital should get its own act together - and not just the hospital, but the clinics, so we're leading by example.''

Another recommendation being discussed was to ensure that healthy food was provided by outside caterers employed for special events.

"We'd like to start to influence the business models of that kind of catering businesses,'' Dr Kelly said. The discussion paper recommended that "red'' foods still be permitted for major events such as Christmas parties and major fund-raisers.

Dr Kelly said other government agencies might wish to follow the example of the Health Directorate.

"Once we get our act together here, we'd like to see that expanded into the rest of the public service that we have some kind of influence over and through that an even wider reach,'' he said.


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