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NSW leads nationwide efforts to encourage children’s activity

NSW leads nationwide efforts to encourage children’s activity
April 22, 2018

In the face of an ever-evolving childhood obesity crisis brought upon largely by rising levels of physical inactivity among Australian children, the NSW Government is taking a leading role in attempting to reverse the worrying trend.

At the end of January this year, the NSW Government launched the $207 million Active Kids Program - an initiative designed to assist families in meeting the cost of getting their children into sport and active fitness/recreation activities.

Active Kids enables parents and carers of school-aged children to enrol in an approved sport or fitness activity and receive a $100 voucher to cover registration and participation costs for that calendar year. InteractSport is proud to have played a part in the roll out of the new program by creating an online integrated voucher platform from which the vouchers can be purchased.

A program roll out of this magnitude and financial spend is a significant acknowledgement by the NSW Government of how serious an issue childhood obesity has become in our society.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014/15), one in four Australian children aged five to 17 years (some 1 million youngsters) were overweight or obese, with that figure projected to rise to 33% by 2025.

Extending that further, slightly less than one-quarter (23%) of Australian children did not meet the recommended national physical activity guidelines (60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day).

In assessing trends impacting upon sport in Australia, the Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport 2017 produced by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) revealed that the marginalisation of sport and physical education programs in schools; less ‘active commuting’; and an increase in ‘screen-time’-related activities were other barriers restricting the participation in sport at primary and secondary school level.

It is in this identification of the barriers that the NSW Government has taken the first steps in removing them with the Active Kids Program.

From a take-up point of view, there have been encouraging signs in the program’s formative stages; of the 250,000 vouchers that were downloaded in the first 10 days of the program’s launch, more than 100,000 vouchers were redeemed.

NSW Office of Sport Chief Executive, Matt Miller, sees that while identifying barriers to participation in sport and reducing the cost from a universal program were key priorities, the anticipated development of the Active Kids Program over time allowed the NSW Government to expand the range of tools to fight childhood obesity and target specific areas.

Miller advised “early data shows that those eligible across the state are claiming and using their vouchers, with almost half a million vouchers already downloaded.

“The program is also allowing better direction for system improvements ahead with compliance to government requirements around child protection, risk management and fraud control.”

With all this taken into account, it raises the question as to why other states or governing bodies have fallen behind, or indeed, remain largely inactive in the space of specific government policy and good old fashioned delivery of programs that target childhood obesity.

That is not to say there have been no attempts at all. In 2014, VicHealth produced the Active For Life resource kit aimed at providing an ‘evidence-based resource to help better understand the challenges around children’s physical activity, and inspire better practice to integrate more movement in children’s daily lives’.

The Active For Life kits provided a series of practical actions to assist in kids getting active at school, in organised sport and recreational activities, within the community, at home and in general every day life.

In May 2017, the Queensland State Government announced a $20 million commission aimed at tackling the problem, and as a result, the Healthy Futures Commission Queensland Bill was introduced to the Queensland Parliament with a view to having the commission operational ‘in the first half of 2018’.

Other isolated examples in other states include Western Australia’s Better Health Program targeted at children aged seven to 13 years in the Perth Metropolitan area, Tasmania’s Healthy Kids Toolkit and the ACT’s Healthy Children’s Initiative.

On a Federal level, Sporting Schools brings together schools and sports to help get Australian children active in their local communities. Sporting Schools is open to all Australian primary schools, and with quality programs developed by over 30 national sporting organisations.

Of perhaps the biggest concern in this particular area is the South Australian Government’s decision to cut funding to its Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program in late 2016. OPAL had targeted almost 70,000 South Australian children in more than 100 schools, involving families across 20 local government areas, with the aim of increasing the number of kids in a healthy weight range, and improving diet and physical activity levels.

This is in stark comparison to the NSW Government, who has developed the Active Kids Program as part of a three-pronged approach to tackling childhood obesity. Other measures include an increase in community education and awareness, and a greater focus in healthy eating in school canteens.

All three approaches form one of the 12 Premier’s Priorities outlined by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has tabled the ultimate aim of reducing overweight and obesity rates among NSW’s children by five percentage points by 2025.

As for the future of the Active Kids Program, Miller is of the belief that the benefits extend to the sport governing bodies, as well as their affiliated associations and clubs that participate in the program.

He adds “Active Kids has been seen as a driver for affiliation that in turn improves governance and enhances the quality of data.

“In future, by being part of a distribution model, the Active Kids program opens up flexibility and innovation into sectors rather than being contained directly. It also enables us to open up a better connection to services in specific communities.” 

Iages (from top): Children's activity, Matt Miller and the growing problem of inactivity/obesity in children.

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30th March 2018 - SPORT NSW CALLS FOR STADIUM SAVINGS TO BE INVESTED IN THE SUBURBS 

14th February 2018 - NEW VICHEALTH PROGRAM AIMS TO GET INACTIVE TEENAGERS AWAY FROM THEIR SCREENS 

8th February 2018 - BELGRAVIA GROUP COMMITS TO BOOSTING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AMONG AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN

17th November 2017 - NEW AUSPLAY FIGURES SHOW FOOTBALL LEADS SPORT PARTICIPATION RATES IN AUSTRALIA 

14th October 2016 - OUTDOOR PLAY ESSENTIAL TO HEALTHY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

26th September 2017 - ESSA RELAUNCHES EXERCISE RIGHT FOR KIDS

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3rd July 2016 - AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN SLIDE DOWN GLOBAL FITNESS RANKINGS

30th June 2016 - RESEARCH SHOWS GIRLS WHO DON’T PLAY SPORT AT 16 ARE UNLIKELY TO EVER PARTICIPATE AS ADULTS 

8th December 2014 - CLUB BASED FITNESS PROGRAMS PROVING POPULAR WITH TEENAGERS

31st March 2011 - MATT MILLER TO LEAVE AUSTRALIAN SPORTS COMMISSION

24th August 2010 - NEW CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS BENEFITS OF CLUB SPORTS FOR KIDS 

17th November 2009 - CRAWFORD: PARTICIPATION, NOT MEDALS, SHOULD BE AUSTRALIA’S SPORTING GOAL


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