ACT News

New nutrition service launched to help fight obesity in the ACT

A new community-based nutrition service has been established to counter increasing rates of obesity through education and awareness.

The ACT Nutrition Support Service was launched on Thursday afternoon after the ACT Government provided a $419,000 three-year grant to Nutrition Australia ACT, who will co-ordinate the service in coming years.  

ACT Health Minister Simon Corbell.
ACT Health Minister Simon Corbell. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The initiative will see accredited dieticians provide free advice over the phone and tailor programs for Canberrans who need help changing their lifestyle and eating habits.

The launch of the program comes just two days after the ACT Government welcomed a damning audit by the Heart Foundation that found four out of five food and drink advertisements aimed at children featured unhealthy products.

According to the 2014 Chief Health Officer's report more than 60 per cent of ACT adults were overweight or obese.

After receiving the Heart Foundation ACT audit, Minister for Health Simon Corbell said approximately one quarter of children aged between 5 and 17 years were overweight or obese.


"We know that being overweight or obese is a serious health issue worldwide, and that in the majority of cases, being overweight or obese is linked to poor dietary choices," Mr Corbell said.

"The social impact of obesity on patients and their families is great, and the economic impact this has on our health system is significant."

Mr Corbell said the nutrition support service would have a range of information tailored to community sectors, including food and drink guidelines, nutrition policy templates, fact sheets, healthy recipes and sample menu plans.

"By providing a one-stop-shop for community organisations and individuals to access evidence-based nutrition advice, the Nutrition Support Service will help to address the prevalence of overweight and obesity within the ACT," he said. 

After the release of the Heart Foundation ACT audit, Mr Corbell said the government would consider restrictions on unhealthy food and drink advertising near schools, but not without extensive public consultation.

The audit found nearly four out of five food and drink ads aimed at children in shopping centres, supermarkets and near schools promoted unhealthy products.

Mr Corbell said there was "a compelling case" to look closely at the influence of junk food advertising to ensure it did not undermine healthy food education schemes.  

"There are both social and economic costs associated with obesity, and having an increasing rate of people with weight problems means that more people in our community will be at risk of developing chronic health conditions," he said.  

These include some cancers, type-two diabetes, mental health conditions, reproductive complications, sleep apnoea and heart conditions.

The nutrition service will be available to community organisations, early childhood centres, schools, disability services and aged care facilities