Launch of AIHW Publication Australia’s Food and Nutrition 2012
International Federation for Home Economics 22nd World Congress, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
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17 July 2012
I am very pleased to be with you today.
I am heartened to see so many delegates, both from Australia and overseas, have taken the time to gather here in Melbourne for this important congress.
The support for this gathering highlights the important role you all play in building and promoting global wellbeing for individuals, families and communities.
Thank you for allowing me time in your busy agenda to launch Australia’s Food and Nutrition 2012, produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Food is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, so it is important we have a good understanding of the various components that influence and affect our food choices.
Australia’s 1992 National Food and Nutrition Policy highlighted the importance of considering the food and nutrition system as a coherent entity.
A recognition that informed the first edition of Australia’s Food and Nutrition, produced in 1994, which brought together for the first time - in one volume -information from all sectors of the food and nutrition system.
The revised edition of Australia’s Food and Nutrition we are launching today provides a timely update of the key components in our food and nutrition system.
It highlights the interactions and inter-relationships that exist within that system and will assist in providing an evidence base to inform current and future food and nutrition related activities.
I am confident it will become a vital resource for all those concerned with food and nutrition in Australia, especially public health and food professionals.
Preventive healthAs many of you will know, a key component of the Australian Government’s health reform agenda is preventive health.
We are providing unprecedented support to keep people healthy and out of hospital – to improve the lives of Australians and reduce the pressure on our health and hospital system.
We are committed to fighting lifestyle-related chronic diseases and have made the largest investment ever by an Australian Government in preventive health – $872.1 million over the nine years from 2009–10.
We are encouraging Australians to think about ways to lead healthier lifestyles such as quitting smoking, getting active, drinking less alcohol – and eating well.
Against this background, some of the key findings from Australia’s Food and Nutrition are disturbing, for example:
- About 68 per cent of Australian males and 55 per cent of females are overweight or obese and these proportions are increasing.
- One in 12 children aged five to17 (eight per cent) is obese.
- The cost of healthy food is increasing at a faster rate than the cost of less healthy food, particularly for those living in remote and very remote areas.
- Many children are not eating enough fruit and vegetables, but eating too many foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.
- Health inequalities continue to exist between different Australian population groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural people, socioeconomically disadvantaged people and people with disabilities.
Government initiatives – what are we doing about these problems?So we still have work to do.
The Australian Government is supporting a variety of food and nutrition-related initiatives designed to improve health outcomes.
National Nutrition PolicyWe are developing a National Nutrition Policy to identify, prioritise, drive and monitor nutrition initiatives within the context of the governments’ preventive health agendas.
The policy may consider things like the role of the food label in preventive health and how vulnerable groups and Indigenous nutrition can be better supported.
Food LabellingOne outcome from the response to the recommendations of Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy report last year is a commitment to develop an interpretive, front-of-pack labelling system that reflects public health priorities.
We are now working collaboratively with others in government, industry, public health and consumer groups to develop this system.
National Food PlanSenator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, has this morning released a green paper for public consultation to inform the development of a National Food Plan.
Through the National Food Plan, the Australian Government is bringing together all its policies on food for the first time. This will help ensure the government’s policies are right for the long term.
The green paper seeks feedback on existing policies and possible improvements, and is a step towards the national food plan white paper.
The Australian Health SurveyThe Australian Health Survey is currently collecting information on health status, dietary intakes, physical activity participation, physical measures (including measures of overweight and obesity) and objective measures of diet-related chronic disease.
The survey will assist in identifying population groups at risk of poor health and inform the development, implementation and evaluation of health, food, nutrition and physical activity programs and policies.
Australian Dietary GuidelinesThe Australian Dietary Guidelines are being revised by the National Health and Medical Research Council to reflect the latest available scientific evidence on nutrition.
We expect the guidelines to be released later this year, supported by an interactive website and other promotional resources.
Food and Health DialogueWe have been undertaking a dialogue with the Australian food industry to improve dietary intakes.
To date, the dialogue has achieved industry agreement on sodium targets for bread, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, simmer sauces, processed meats, soups and savoury pies. Saturated fat targets have also been agreed for processed meats.
Food Standards Australia New ZealandFood Standards Australia New Zealand is working on drafting a Standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims, which will permit food labels in Australia and New Zealand to carry nutrition content claims and health claims, providing certain criteria are met.
I am confident that Australia’s Food and Nutrition will be another valuable tool in our efforts to promote good nutrition and health.
I note the theme of your congress is Global creativity and innovation: developing capacities for sustainable futures.
Hopefully this publication will have an important role in building a health system in Australia that meets the needs of all Australians in a sustainable and responsible way.
I commend Australia’s Food and Nutrition to you all.
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