ACT Labor sets target of zero growth

On average, Canberrans are the best educated, best paid and healthiest people in Australia.

Every year we are investing record levels of funding in our community, building a stronger local health system, investing in better schools and teachers, maintaining a strong local economy and creating more local jobs than ever before.

Right now ACT Labor is investing $1.3 billion to build better hospitals and more health services in Canberra’s north and south to make our health system even stronger.

Canberrans enjoy relatively good health overall. Our life expectancy is high, we are less likely than other Australians to smoke and most of our children are immunised. Mortality rates are also on the decline for a range of cancers and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

However many of us continue to live in a way that is not as healthy as it could be. According to the 2012 Chief Health Officer’s Report, only 57% of the Territory’s adults are sufficiently active, less than 10% of ACT adults eat sufficient vegetables and more than 40% of adults do not eat enough fruit. In fact 53% of ACT adults are either overweight or obese.

There are also worrying trends in our children. By kindergarten, 15.7% of ACT children are overweight or obese, a significant jump on the 12.8% in 2008. By year 6, one in four children is overweight or obese.

There is clearly more to do.

That’s why, if re-elected ACT Labor will set a “zero growth” target by of making the current recorded rates of people who are overweight and obese as the peak of the obesity epidemic in the ACT.

This will be tough goal to reach but we think it is important to draw the line somewhere.  It has taken many years to reach this point and we must take a strong stand to start seriously attempting to reverse the current trend. 

We know that we are setting ourselves a very ambitious target.  Solving big issues like this will be a marathon rather than a sprint and requires collective action from business, consumers, public health groups and governments.   We will also need the community to join us.

ACT Labor will take action on Obesity

Broad action is required beyond the traditional health sector, by providing access to opportunities for exercise and active transport, managing the way products are advertised or presented in shops, changing the availability of food, educating our children, and promoting healthy choices in the workplace.

ACT Labor wants to do our bit by making it easier for people to make healthy choices.

We have already commenced work on a Whole-of-Government (WoG) approach to tackling unhealthy lifestyles.  Our WoG Healthy Weight Group has begun reviewing all of our physical activity and nutrition programs right across Government, asking every Directorate to look at what they are doing, to identify programs that can be aligned or made more effective, and opportunities for greater collaboration.  Our goal of reducing obesity will not be a Health target alone.

It will require collective action across government from education, planning and transport as well.  It will also require the coordinated efforts of our non-government partners who share our commitment to making Canberra the healthiest city to live in.

In this year’s budget we allocated $300,000 to help pull together the ACT’s first ever Healthy Weight Action Plan.  The cross government work when combined with the non-government organisations priorities will form the basis of the Action Plan and the agreed way forward for short, medium and long term priorities.

In order to progress priority areas the $2 million annual grants to the community sector for a range of health promotion activities and initiatives will be targeted to achieving the new “zero growth” target.

Other immediate steps ACT Labor will take to make healthy options more readily available include:

  • Ensuring healthy options are included in all vending machine at ACT public hospitals and government facilities;

  • Developing new Government catering guidelines to ensure catering at Government functions meet nutritional guidelines and do not contribute to unhealthy weights;

  • Establishing a $500,000 fund to install water bottle refill stations and supply reusable drink bottles to any school that agrees to end the sale of sugary drinks in their schools.  Our aim is to completely phase out sugary drinks in ACT primary schools within five years and improve the health of all children;

  • Provide water refill stations in public areas of our hospitals and health centres;

  • Committing to ensuring that no fast food outlet will operate from an ACT public hospital or health facility; and

  • Explore options to improve access to cheap, healthy foods for vulnerable groups such as through an Indigenous community garden.


ACT Labor will also:

  • Continue efforts to reduce the commercial pressure on people, particularly children, to consume high energy, nutrient poor products by supporting initiatives at the national level such as improved food labelling and restrictions on marketing to children;
  • Continue our efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools such as the work already underway to implement Healthy Food @ School in partnership with ETD which includes support for canteen managers to implement the National School Canteen guidelines;
  • Ensure mandatory guidelines for physical activity in primary schools are followed;
  • Continue our programs to promote exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life;
  • Further promote cycling and walking through urban design and active transport policies adequately fund cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and public transport;
  • Protect parklands; and
  • Plan new leisure facilities and infrastructure in new suburbs.

ACT Labor will also provide an additional $5 million

for public obesity services.

ACT Labor will commit more than $3.7 million to provide better services for people who are already overweight and encourage better eating and lifestyle habits. We will expand the public obesity service to provide multi-disciplinary care to ensure a holistic approach to weight loss services.  This will include establishing clinics which provide medical, dietary, fitness and lifestyle assessments and advice, to support people in their quest to lose weight and establish healthy lifestyles. We will also set aside $1.3 million to provide surgical options for a discrete group of patients for whom all other options have been exhausted and who commit to long term lifestyle changes and regular follow-up.

Why is this important?

We know that carrying too much weight places individuals at risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and musculoskeletal disease.  Obesity also increases the risk of some common cancers such as colon and breast cancer, and increases the rate of asthma in overweight children. 

Almost 7% of the ACT population has diabetes or high blood glucose and this number is expected to increase by 50% by 2020.  In 2009, 557 Canberrans died from cardiovascular disease. That’s 34% of all deaths.

Chronic conditions continue to account for about 80% of the burden of disease and injury which places significant pressure on our health system and our budget. The impact on our community is also considerable through lost productivity, premature death and disability.  The latest research shows that diseases such as diabetes can be eliminated in many people simply by losing weight.

This “no growth” policy forms one part of ACT Labors plans to make Canberra the healthiest place to live.

Simply by dropping some kilos, patients can experience improved heart function, longer life-expectancy and improved capacity for work and recreation.  Reducing obesity will be good for individuals, good for families, good for our community and good for the broader economy.

Policy costings

ACT Labor sets target of zero growth







Obesity services






Water refill stations at schools (capital)






Water refill stations at hospitals and health centres (capital).