ACT News

Territory to get tough on obesity

The ACT government says junk food-free checkouts and regulation of the sale of sugary drinks should be part of a plan to stop the territory's rising obesity levels.

The government will publish on Monday a plan it has described as controversial but necessary to stop Canberrans from getting fatter.

The government will publish its plan to tackle Canberra's growing rates of obesity.
The government will publish its plan to tackle Canberra's growing rates of obesity. Photo: Jeff Haynes

The proposals include restricting junk food advertising - to the extent that it is possible for a territory government to do so - and offering rewards for workplaces and food outlets that are healthy.

Council of Australian Governments data published in May showed the territory is losing its war on weight, with 25 per cent of Canberrans now considered obese and a further 38 per cent considered overweight.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said on Sunday the ACT's combined overweight and obesity rate had grown from 23 per cent in 1995 to 63 per cent in 2013.

The proportion of Canberra children who are overweight or obese is 25 per cent.

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The government has set a ''zero growth'' target for obesity but is fighting an uphill battle, with some predictions suggesting 80 per cent of Canberrans will be overweight or obese by 2025.

Ms Gallagher said the government's first task was to try to stop the growth in obesity, before it attempted to reverse the trend.

''All the projections … are that it is going to get worse across the country. The implications of this are horrendous. You'll have a health system that can't cope, you'll have budgets that can't cope, let alone the individual impacts on the health of individuals.''

She said the government's plan had elements that would be controversial, including a proposal to have at least one checkout at every supermarket that was free of unhealthy food.

The government also plans to develop a food and drink policy for territory schools and will have health-risk assessments for ACT government workers - a proposal it wants extended to the private sector.

Other measures include improving transport and parking options that encourage Canberrans to walk, and regulation of the sale of sugary drinks.

''These are really challenging things,'' Ms Gallagher said.

''Sugary drinks are one of the biggest contributors to children being overweight. We can't pretend it's not a problem.''

She said a ''do-nothing'' approach to obesity was unsustainable. ''It's not just a matter of taking kids out and running around the oval. It's about planning, how you plan your environment; it's about the transport system; it's the school system. This isn't trying to be a nanny state, it's about showing leadership.''

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