A shift in focus from treating illness to preventing illness is reflected in a new ACT Government plan to support Canberrans to be healthy and active across all stages of life.
The Healthy Canberra: ACT Preventative Health Plan 2020-2025 sets out a framework for preventing chronic disease and supporting improved health and wellbeing outcomes, with the aim of keeping Canberrans well and out of hospital.
The Healthy Canberra Plan has five key priority areas: supporting children and families; enabling active living; increasing healthy eating; reducing risky behaviours; and promoting healthy ageing.
The Plan will deliver tailored approaches to different population groups recognising their health needs and priorities. It will address the leading lifestyle risk factors – tobacco use, dietary risks, physical inactivity and alcohol use – that contribute to over a third of the total burden of disease in Australia.
According to ACT Government statistics, 48.7% or almost half of all adults in the ACT live with at least one chronic disease; 64% of Canberra adults are overweight or obese; and approximately one in four children in the ACT are overweight or obese.
Heart Foundation general manager of advocacy, Rebecca Smith, said their research corresponds with the ACT Government findings.
“Obesity rates have risen in the ACT in the last 10 years with nearly two in three adults (64%) being overweight or obese. The proportion of adults in the normal weight range has also dropped in the last decade to 35% – which means 18,800 fewer people in the ACT are in the healthy weight range,” Ms Smith said.
“The number of people not meeting the physical activity guidelines is still alarmingly high and ACT men and women have the lowest rate of adequate vegetable consumption in Australia, with 96% not eating enough veggies for good health.”
Ms Smith said a comprehensive preventative health plan is crucial in supporting people in the ACT to live well and stay healthy for as long as possible.
“In 2017-18, there were more than 8,700 hospital admissions in the ACT that could have been prevented and more than 34,500 bed days avoided, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).” Ms Smith said.
“This all shows us that people in the ACT are not as healthy as we would like them to be and that a plan which is focused on preventing disease before it occurs will reduce the amount of illness and suffering in the community.”
A new Preventive Health Coordinator will be appointed in early 2020 to oversee the implementation of the plan across ACT Government. The Coordinator will work in partnership with community and health sector organisations to implement a range of actions under the plan to help keep Canberrans healthy and active.