Launch of Get Up and Grow
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22 October 2009
Good morning it is indeed a pleasure to be with you today, in such an appropriate setting for what we’re all here to talk about.
I am very proud to be launching the Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Guidelines for Early Childhood, together with my colleague, the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Child Care and Youth and Sport Kate Ellis.
When the Rudd Government came into office we had a commitment to delivering an education revolution, particularly for early childhood. This isn’t just a buzz word – it is a serious commitment to investing in the most important little members of our community – our children.
We are here today to launch one of the down payments on that commitment.
It is clear that as a nation, we needed to focus on a number of key aspects of children’s education, health and well being. It may be cliché to say it, but the future of our country is in the hands of the young and how we prosper as a nation will be determined by our children, and our children’s children.
The release of these guidelines today will serve as an important tool for professionals working in early childhood settings and should be viewed with that in mind. These are guidelines, based on evidence – not laws and rules that must be obsessively followed.
It would be a shame if we lost sight of the Guidelines’ important purpose – and that is to build healthier, happier kids.
More than half of Australian adults are now overweight or obese. This is the legacy of our lifestyle choices and habits.
The problem is, we are passing our habits onto the next generation. We know from the National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey that we have problems with overweight and obesity across all age groups. These problems are leading to a multitude of health problems.
A shocking reality check is the current prediction that the life expectancy for Australian children alive today will fall two years by the time they are 20 years old.
After centuries of rising life expectancy, we are now staring down the barrel of a decline. Is this the kind of legacy we want to leave?
Government Plans for Early Childhood & Tackling Obesity
The Rudd Government is deeply committed to ensuring that by the time a child leaves school good eating and exercise habits are in place.
The time to encourage these habits is not just while they are at school, but before they even reach school. Families and early childhood settings play an important role.
That is why the Government committed $4.5 million over five years to develop the Get Up & Grow guidelines.
Significantly, the publishing of these guidelines is the very first time Australia has had national physical activity guidelines for the 1.4 million children who are under five years of age – more than 1 million of whom attend an early childhood setting like kindergartens and childcare centres.
We now have evidence that apart from the more obvious health benefits of physical activity, it also improves children’s psychosocial wellbeing.
Physical activity reduces depression, stress and anxiety, and improves self confidence, self esteem, energy levels, sleep quality and concentration.
The Get Up & Grow guidelines were developed by a consortium from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Centre for Community for Child Health, Early Childhood Australia and the Nutrition Department of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
Each of these leading-edge organisations is deeply committed to improving outcomes for children and I welcome them here today for the launch.
Child health and early childhood professionals, families, and state and territory governments were also extensively involved in this project. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse families were consulted as well. Their involvement in developing the guidelines has resulted in the very highest quality product for this Australian-first project.
The guidelines are based on existing evidence and thorough research, making them an important lynchpin to Australians adopting healthier lifestyles. The guidelines are designed so that they can be used in early childhood settings including centre-based care, family day care and preschools.
Preventative health agenda
The urgent need for the Government to invest in preventative health is a key theme of the Health Reform Commission’s final report. The National Preventative Health Strategy also highlights the need for urgent action to prevent hundreds of thousands of Australians developing preventable diseases between now and 2020.
The strategy emphasises the vital influence of early intervention and education to help prevent chronic diseases. Recommendations in the report conclude that the health system needs to nurture a healthy start to live, based on:
- a partnership with parents and support for families to improve their children’s health and wellbeing;
- a life-course approach to help people understand health needs at different stages of life, including the first three years and when they enter primary school
- three levels of care, including population-wide measures, targeted measures for those at risk, and intensive measures for those with special needs.
There are a number of Government initiatives to specifically address childhood obesity and improve the health of children. These include:
- $25.6 million for Healthy Kids Checks for all 4-year-olds;
- $2.9 million for the Get Set 4 Life – Habits for Healthy Kids Guide for parents of those receiving the Healthy Kids Check;
- $12.8 million for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program for 190 primary schools to build kitchen facilities and vegetable gardens;
- $12.2 million to expand the KidsMatter project currently rolled-out in 101 schools to schools across Australia and $6.5 million to develop a KidsMatter project for the early childhood sector;
- $124.4 million for the Active After Schools Communities program to encourage after-school physical activity; and
- A National Health and Medical Research Council review of the dietary and infant feeding guidelines.
As you can see, the Rudd Government is deeply committed to the preventative health agenda.
We want to encourage and improve the health of all Australians, including the youngest members of our community. We want to instil good living and eating habits at a young age, so that when our kids grow up, they are able to enjoy a high quality of life, and pass these habits onto their children.
This is good for the community, good for our health system, good for our economy, and good for people.
That’s why I am pleased to launch these guidelines which mark an important milestone in the challenge of becoming a healthier and more active nation.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the Minister for Sport, Early Childhood Education, Child Care and Youth, the Honourable Kate Ellis who will tell you more about what the guidelines’ kit contains. Thank you.
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