NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SugarTax #5Myths @ausoftheyear Dr James Muecke pushing for Scott Morrison’s government to enact a tax on sugary drinks : Money $ raised could be used to fund health promotion

” This year’s Australian of the Year, Dr James Muecke, is an eye specialist with a clear vision.

He wants to change the way the world looks at sugar and the debilitating consequences of diabetes, which include blindness.

Muecke is pushing for Scott Morrison’s government to enact a tax on sugary drinks to help make that a reality.

Such a tax would increase the price of soft drinks, juices and other sugary drinks by around 20%. The money raised could be used to fund health promotion programs around the country.

The evidence backing his calls is strong. ” 

From the Conversation

” A study of intake of six remote Aboriginal communities, based on store turnover, found that intake of energy, fat and sugar was excessive, with fatty meats making the largest contribution to fat intake.

Compared with national data, intake of sweet and carbonated beverages and sugar was much higher in these communities, with the proportion of energy derived from refined sugars approximately four times the recommended intake.

Recent evidence from Mexico indicates that implementing health-related taxes on sugary drinks and on ‘junk’ food can decrease purchase of these foods and drinks.

A recent Australian study predicted that increasing the price of sugary drinks by 20% could reduce consumption by 12.6%.

Revenue raised by such a measure could be directed to an evaluation of effectiveness and in the longer term be used to subsidise and market healthy food choices as well as promotion of physical activity.

It is imperative that all of these interventions to promote healthy eating should have community-ownership and not undermine the cultural importance of family social events, the role of Elders, or traditional preferences for some food.

Food supply in Indigenous communities needs to ensure healthy, good quality foods are available at affordable prices.” 

Extract from NACCHO Network Submission to the Select Committee’s Obesity Epidemic in Australia Inquiry. 

Download the full 15 Page submission HERE

Obesity Epidemic in Australia – Network Submission – 6.7.18

Also Read over 40 Aboriginal Health and Sugar Tax articles published by NACCHO 

Taxes on sugary drinks work

Several governments around the world have adopted taxes on sugary drinks in recent years. The evidence is clear: they work.

Last year, a summary of 17 studies found health taxes on sugary drinks implemented in Berkeley and other places in the United States, Mexico, Chile, France and Spain reduced both purchases and consumption of sugary drinks.

Reliable evidence from around the world tells us a 10% tax reduces sugary drink intakes by around 10%.

The United Kingdom soft drink tax has also been making headlines recently. Since its introduction, the amount of sugar in drinks has decreased by almost 30%, and six out of ten leading drink companies have dropped the sugar content of more than 50% of their drinks.

Read more: Sugary drinks tax is working – now it’s time to target cakes, biscuits and snacks

In Australia, modelling studies have shown a 20% health tax on sugary drinks is likely to save almost A$2 billion in healthcare costs over the lifetime of the population by preventing diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.

This is over and above the cost benefits of preventing dental health issues linked to consumption of sugary drinks.

Most of the health benefits (nearly 50%) would occur among those living in the lowest socioeconomic circumstances.

A 20% health tax on sugary drinks would also raise over A$600 million to invest back into the health of Australians.

After sugar taxes are introduced, people tend to switch from sugar drinks to other product lines, such as bottled water and artificially sweetened drinks. l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock


So what’s the problem?

The soft drink industry uses every trick in the book to try to convince politicians a tax on sugary drinks is bad policy.

Here are our responses to some common arguments against these taxes:

Myth 1: Sugary drink taxes unfairly disadvantage the poor

It’s true people on lower incomes would feel the pinch from higher prices on sugary drinks. A 20% tax on sugary drinks in Australia would cost people from low socioeconomic households about A$35 extra per year. But this is just A$4 higher than the cost to the wealthiest households.

Importantly, poorer households are likely to get the biggest health benefits and long-term health care savings.

What’s more, the money raised from the tax could be targeted towards reducing health inequalities.

Read more: Australian sugary drinks tax could prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes and save 1,600 lives

Myth 2: Sugary drink taxes would result in job losses

Multiple studies have shown no job losses resulted from taxes on sugar drinks in Mexico and the United States.

This is in contrast to some industry-sponsored studies that try to make the case otherwise.

In Australia, job losses from such a tax are likely to be minimal. The total demand for drinks by Australian manufacturers is unlikely to change substantially because consumers would likely switch from sugary drinks to other product lines, such as bottled water and artificially sweetened drinks.

A tax on sugary drinks is unlikely to cost jobs. Successo images/Shutterstock


Despite industry protestations, an Australian tax would have minimal impact on sugar farmers. This is because 80% of our locally grown sugar is exported. Only a small amount of Australian sugar goes to sugary drinks, and the expected 1% drop in demand would be traded elsewhere.

Myth 3: People don’t support health taxes on sugary drinks

There is widespread support for a tax on sugary drinks from major health and consumer groups in Australia.

In addition, a national survey conducted in 2017 showed 77% of Australians supported a tax on sugary drinks, if the proceeds were used to fund obesity prevention.

Myth 4: People will just swap to other unhealthy products, so a tax is useless

Taxes, or levies, can be designed to avoid substitution to unhealthy products by covering a broad range of sugary drink options, including soft drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks.

There is also evidence that shows people switch to water in response to sugary drinks taxes.

Read more: Sweet power: the politics of sugar, sugary drinks and poor nutrition in Australia

Myth 5: There’s no evidence sugary drink taxes reduce obesity or diabetes

Because of the multiple drivers of obesity, it’s difficult to isolate the impact of a single measure. Indeed, we need a comprehensive policy approach to address the problem. That’s why Dr Muecke is calling for a tax on sugary drinks alongside improved food labelling and marketing regulations.

Towards better food policies

The Morrison government has previously and repeatedly rejected pushes for a tax on sugary drinks.

But Australian governments are currently developing a National Obesity Strategy, making it the ideal time to revisit this issue.

We need to stop letting myths get in the way of evidence-backed health policies.

Let’s listen to Dr Muecke – he who knows all too well the devastating effects of products packed full of sugar.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #BacktoSchool : What our kids eat can affect not only their physical health but also their mood, mental health and learning

“When kids eat a healthy diet with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in that diet, they actually perform better in the classroom.​     

They’re going to have better stamina with their work, and at the end of the day it means we’ll get better learning results which will impact on them in the long term.”

Marlborough Primary School principal

We know that fuelling children with the appropriate foods helps support their growth and development.

But there is a growing body of research showing that what children eat can affect not only their physical health but also their mood, mental health and learning.

The research suggests that eating a healthy and nutritious diet can improve mental health¹, enhance cognitive skills like concentration and memory²‚³ and improve academic performance⁴.

In fact, young people that have the unhealthiest diets are nearly 80% more likely to have depression than those with the healthiest diets

Continued Part 1 Below

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer increased risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Eating healthy food and being physically active lowers your risk of getting kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, and of dying young from heart disease and some cancers.

Being a healthy weight can also makes it easier for you to keep up with your family and look after the kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids. “

Continued Part 2 Below

Part 1

Children should be eating plenty of nutritious, minimally processed foods from the five food groups:

  1. fruit
  2. vegetables and legumes/beans
  3. grains (cereal foods)
  4. lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives.

Consuming too many nutritionally-poor foods and drinks that are high in added fats, sugars and salt, such as lollies, chips and fried foods has been connected to emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents⁵.

In fact, young people that have the unhealthiest diets are nearly 80% more likely to have depression than those with the healthiest diets¹.

Children learn from their parents and carers. If you want your children to eat well, set a good example. If you help them form healthy eating habits early, they’re more likely to stick with them for life.

So here are some good habits to start them on the right path.

Eat with your kids, as a family, without the distraction of the television. Children benefit from routines, so try to eat meals at regular times.

Make sure your kids eat breakfast too – it’s a good source of energy and nutrients to help them start the day. Good choices are high-fibre, low-sugar cereals or wholegrain toast. It’s also a good idea to prepare healthy snacks in advance for them to eat in between meals.

Encourage children to drink water or milk rather than soft drinks, cordial, sports drinks or fruit juice drinks – don’t keep these in the fridge or pantry.

Children over the age of two years can be given reduced fat milk, but children under the age of two years should be given full cream milk.

Why are schools an important place to make changes?

Schools can play a key role in influencing healthy eating habits, as students can consume on average 37% of their energy intake for the day during school hours alone!6

A New South Wales survey found that up to 72% of primary school students purchase foods and drinks from the canteen at least once a week7. Also, in Victoria, while around three-quarters (77%) of children meet the guidelines for recommended daily serves of fruit, only one in 25 (4%) meet the guidelines for recommended daily serves of vegetables8; and discretionary foods account for nearly 40 per cent of energy intake for Victorian children9.

It’s never too late to encourage healthier eating habits – childhood and adolescence is a key time to build lifelong habits and learn how to enjoy healthy eating.

Get started today

You can start to improve students’ learning outcomes and mental wellbeing by promoting healthy eating throughout your school environment.

Some ideas to get you started:

This blog article was originally published on Healthy Eating Advisory Service . 

Part 2

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer increased risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Eating healthy food and being physically active lowers your risk of getting kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, and of dying young from heart disease and some cancers.

Being a healthy weight can also makes it easier for you to keep up with your family and look after the kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may find it useful to chose store foods that are most like traditional animal and plant bush foods – that is, low in saturated fat, added sugar and salt – and use traditional bush foods whenever possible.

The Healthy Weight Guide provides information about maintaining and achieving a healthy weight.

It tells you how to work out if you’re a healthy weight. It lets you know up-to-date information about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid and what and how much physical activity to do. It gives you tips on setting goalsmonitoring what you dogetting support and managing the challenges.

There are also tips on how to eat well if you live in rural and remote areas.

The national Live Longer! Local Community Campaigns Grants Program supports Indigenous communities to help their people to work towards and maintain healthy weights and lifestyles. For more information, see Live Longer!.

Part 3 Parents may not always realise that their children are not a healthy weight.

If you think your child is underweight, the following information will not apply to your situation and you should seek advice from a health professional for an assessment.

If you think your child is overweight you should see your health professional for an assessment. However, if you’re not sure whether your child is overweight, see if you recognise some of the signs below. If you are still not sure, see your health professional for advice.

Overweight children may experience some or all of the following:

  • Having to wear clothes that are too big for their age
  • Having rolls or skin folds around the waist
  • Snoring when they sleep
  • Saying they get teased about their weight
  • Difficulty participating in some physically active games and activities
  • Avoiding taking part in games at school
  • Avoiding going out with other children

Signs that a child is at risk of becoming overweight, if they are not already, include:

  • Eating lots of foods high in saturated fats such as pies, pasties, sausage rolls, hot chips, potato crisps and other snacks, and cakes, biscuits and high-sugar muesli bars
  • Eating take away or fast food meals more than once a week
  • Eating lots of foods high in added sugar such as cakes, biscuits, muffins, ice-cream and deserts
  • Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks, sports drinks or cordials
  • Eating lots of snacks high in salt and fat such as hot chips, potato crisps and other similar snacks
  • Skipping meals, including breakfast, regularly
  • Watching TV and/or playing video games or on social networks for more than two hours each day
  • Not being physically active on a daily basis.

For more information:

References for Part 1

1 Jacka FN, et al. Associations between diet quality and depressed mood in adolescents: results from the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods Study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 May;44(5):435-42.
2 Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578. Retrieved from
3 Bellisle, F. (2004). Effects of diet on behaviour and cognition in children. British Journal of Nutrition, 92(2), S227–S232
4 Burrows, T., Goldman, S., Pursey, K., Lim, R. (2017) Is there an association between dietary intake and academic achievement: a systematic review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 30, 117– 140 doi: 10.1111/jhn.12407.
5 Jacka FN, Kremer PJ, Berk M, de Silva-Sanigorski AM, Moodie M, Leslie ER, et al. (2011) A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24805.
6 Bell AC, Swinburn BA. What are the key food groups to target for preventing obesity and improving nutrition in schools? Eur J Clin Nutr2004;58:258–63
7 Hardy L, King L, Espinel P, et al. NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) 2010: Full Report (pg 97). Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health, 2011
8 Department of Education and Training 2019, Child Health and Wellbeing Survey – Summary Findings 2017, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
9 Department of Health and Human Services 2016, Victoria’s Health; the Chief Health Officer’s report 2014, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Nutrition News : @CAACongress and @Apunipima ACCHO’s partner with Queensland Uni @UQ_NEWs in 3 year study to fight food insecurity in our Indigenous communities

“We have high rates of iron deficiency anaemia in women and young children and we know this is caused by inadequate iron in the diet.

Iron-rich foods are very expensive in remote communities, and it is believed this is a key factor in causing the deficiency.

The study will enable key foods to be reduced in price and determine the impact this has on their consumption and subsequent health concerns. It will also enable the issue of food security to be more widely discussed.”

Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee (And NACCHO board member ) said the organisation was pleased to be partnering with Apunipima Health Service and the UQ “in this really important study, the first of its kind in Central Australia”.

Download also Congress obesity submission 


You can read all Aboriginal Health and Nutrition articles published by NACCHO 2012 to 2019 HERE

Working with communities to improve food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will be the focus of a significant University of Queensland study.

The three-year research project, designed in conjunction with the Apunipima Cape York Health Council and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, will be funded by a $2 million-plus National Health and Medical Research Council grant to UQ’s School of Public Health.

The study’s phase one will analyse how price discounts, offered via loyalty cards, impact on affordability of a healthy diet.

Phase two will capture participants’ experiences through photos, and use these to develop a framework of solutions that can be translated to health policy.

Dr Megan Ferguson said growing poverty and high food costs were key causes of food insecurity for 31 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities, although research suggests this may be as high as 62 per cent.

“Food insecurity leads to hunger, anxiety, poor health, including under-nutrition, obesity and disease, and inter-generational poverty,” Dr Ferguson said.

“We will be working with communities to identify effective mechanisms to improve food security and enable healthy diets in remote Australia.”

This would be done through a community-led framework and knowledge-sharing solutions.

“Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and carers of children aged under five, will be involved in the study in Central Australia and Cape York,” Dr Ferguson said.

“Improving food security for the whole family, especially women and children, will improve diet quality and health, and give children the best start in life for generations to come.”

Clare Brown, Apunipima’s Nutrition Advisor, said the organisation was pleased to co-lead “this important project”.

“It has come together through a very positive co-design process between researchers and Aboriginal community controlled health service providers,” Ms Brown said.

“The project’s community-led focus supports our way of working respectfully with Cape York communities, and is reflected in the Food Security Position Statement of Apunipima’s board,” Ms Brown said.

Menzies School of Health Research, Monash University, James Cook University and Canada’s Dalhousie University are also involved in the study.


NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health and @TAPPCentre #ChildSafety : @Walgett_AMS #PoolDay Community-led solutions will improve Aboriginal child safety promote community-building, togetherness, health and wellbeing and health promotion activity

“A Prevention Centre project looking at Aboriginal child injury launched its first community event on Saturday 30 November at Walgett Swimming pool. Focusing on water safety, nearly 400 people gathered at the pool to swim, talk, play and focus on the wellbeing of their young people.

A Prevention Centre project promoting Aboriginal child injury prevention held its first community event on Saturday 30 November at Walgett Swimming Pool.

The Walgett Pool Day was led by local Aboriginal community-controlled organisations as a fun and positive day for families to be together and safely enjoy the pool.”

Originally published by the Prevention Centre HERE

Read over 370 Aboriginal Children’s Health articles published by NACCHO over past 7 Years 

NACCHO Announcement 2020

After 2,800 Aboriginal Health Alerts over 7 and half years from NACCHO media will cease publishing from this site as from 31 December 2019 and resume mid January 2020 with posts from

For historical and research purposes all posts 2012-2019 will remain on

Your current email subscription will be automatically transferred to our new Aboriginal Health News Alerts Subscriber service that will offer you the options of Daily , Weekly or Monthly alerts

For further info contact Colin Cowell NACCHO Social Media Media Editor

Almost 400 people attended, with free entry to the pool for a day of yarning, talking about what Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) Goonimoo Mobile Children’s Services will be delivering next year, barbecue, salad, fruit, iced water and the chance to win a family pool season pass.

Injury is the leading cause of death in Australian children. Programs targeting parents of young children offer an opportunity for engagement and improving health literacy around injury prevention throughout children’s lives.

Programs also need to target community-level factors that affect injuries like the physical environment and policies. Change at this level requires community buy-in; relationship-building and events like the pool day build good will and positive associations with the program.

“Parents are really keen to get involved to keep their kids safe. They have ideas about what can be done at a community level and they’re also keen to learn more about what they can do to prevent injuries.” Tara Smith, Goonimoo Child Injury Prevention Educator.


Working closely with local community groups, the Child Injury Prevention Program (CHIPP) has been developed as a community-led project and will be delivered through the existing supported playgroup Goonimoo run by WAMS which works with other local children’s services. This leverages existing knowledge and expertise about local service delivery and the relationships with Walgett families attending this well-established organisation.

“We’ve been having lots of informal yarns with parents during playgroup about the sorts of activities they want to do. We also held some formal research yarning groups with Nellie and Mel from UNSW at Goonimoo, with WAMS health personnel and other local children’s services,” said Amy Townsend Manager of Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service’s Goonimoo Mobile Children’s Services.

“We asked parents what sorts of injury issues they are concerned about and the topics they’d be interested in covering next year,” said Amy.

Parent involvement key to child safety

The involvement of parents is key to the success of the program and research shows it’s an effective route to reducing child injury.

“Parents are really keen to get involved to keep their kids safe. They have ideas about what can be done at a community level and they’re also keen to learn more about what they can do to prevent injuries,” said Tara Smith, Goonimoo Child Injury Prevention Educator.

“They also want to learn first aid – things like CPR and first aid for choking and snake bites – because we’re often a long way from help out here. Snake bites are a big issue in our community, so this is a priority area. Parents are keen, and always encouraged to have a say about the sorts of activities they want to do at Goonimoo’s playgroup ,” said Tara.

Tara has been working with Goonimoo for several years as a qualified educator, prior to which she was an Aboriginal Health Worker at Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service. Tara’s focus in 2020 is on delivering and refining the CHIPP program. Tara is currently studying to become an Aboriginal Health Practitioner.

“I’m learning a lot about child injury. For example, I’ve just been to Sydney to start the Austswim Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course so we can do ‘parents and bubs’ water familiarisation play sessions at the pool next year. Aboriginal families don’t really have access to these sort of water activities in Walgett at the moment,” said Tara.

Tara also co-presented about CHIPP with Dr Melanie Andersen at the Australasian Injury Prevention Network Conference in Brisbane in November.

Walgett Pool Day

Walgett is situated at the junction of the Barwon and Namoi rivers, and the community has a healthy respect for the importance of water safety. CHIPP’s focus on water safety in term one was the result of community consultation.

Walgett’s pool has always been a strong focus for the community to come together, exercise and get some welcome respite from its long, dry summers, particularly now that the rivers are very depleted due to the drought.

“The CHIPP team has yarned with parents about what they’d like from the program, and about injury prevention in general, over the past few months. The Walgett Pool Day was a great opportunity to reach families to promote Goonimoo and the CHIPP program. We also had a few good yarns with the pool manager about water safety, existing and previous swimming programs at Walgett and the pool-based playgroup next year” said Dr Melanie Andersen from UNSW,  a key investigator on the Prevention Centre project.

“The turnout was great and we think that was a result of a long period of promotion by Goonimoo and combining forces with Yuwaya Ngarra-li and Dharriwaa Elders Group so families had transport to and from the pool. The pool was packed with children and families having a ball and cooling down on the 38oC day. We spoke to many people about the program and we’re looking forward to seeing them at the parents and bubs swimming sessions in 2020,” said Dr Andersen.

Community organisations key to success

The success of the Walgett Pool Day is down to the strong local Aboriginal community-controlled organisations who collaborated to bring people together.

“Yuwaya Ngarra-li – the partnership between Walgett’s Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG) and UNSW, were doing their annual community data gathering day with children and young people. Because the CHIPP program was introduced to Walgett through the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership, we decided to combine our resources,” said Wendy Spencer, Project Manager with Dharriwaa Elders Group and Yuwaya Ngarra-li (Dharriwaa Elders Group’s formal research partnership with UNSW Sydney).

“WAMS, DEG, Yuwaya Ngarra-li and the CHIPP team all contributed resources including staff time, food, accommodation, transport, sun-safety giveaways like hats and sunscreen and other resources to make the day a success. We were also pleased that Mission Australia kindly ran the barbecue and the Police Citizens Youth Club provided the music. I was really pleased with the happy good vibe of the day where we had the opportunity to provide some good food, free entry and a fun family time at the pool to cap off a difficult year for everyone in Walgett,”said Wendy.

The day was such a success that Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service will hold two additional community pool days this summer to promote community-building, togetherness, health and wellbeing and as a forum for health promotion activity.

“CHIPP will begin again in earnest next year at Goonimoo, aiming to start off in term one at the pool with parents and bubs water play sessions. The program will focus around activity and play,” said Dr Mel Andersen.

“So, for example, while Goonimoo staff teach parents water familiarisation activities to do with their kids that build water skills, staff will also yarn about drowning prevention. Each school term will have a different injury prevention focus, including sport and physical activity, home safety and road safety.”

Walgett community tips for child water safety

  • Close and constant active adult supervision is the key, even in shallow water
  • Drowning is quick and silent
  • Teach swimming and water safety as early as possible
  • Talk to your children, explain the potential for danger but have fun

Read more

All images © 2019 Dharriwaa Elders Group

Story by Helen Loughlin, Senior Communications Officer

Published: 17 December 2019

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health Resources : Download report : Why we need to rethink Aboriginal childhood #obesity ? Q and A with @SaxInstitute @simonesherriff

“Rates of obesity are high among Aboriginal children, but there’s a lack of policies, guidelines and programs to tackle the issue. Now a new paper published this week in the December issue of Public Health Research & Practice is calling for more meaningful engagement with Aboriginal communities to better address childhood obesity.

Here, lead author Simone Sherriff, a Wotjobaluk woman, PhD student and project officer with the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) at the Sax Institute talks about the paper and her take on the obesity challenges facing Aboriginal communities.

Download Copy of Paper 

ATSI Childhood Obesity

Read over 70 Aboriginal Health and Obesity articles published by NACCHO over the past 7 Years 

Q: Childhood obesity is a national concern, but as your paper points out, Aboriginal children are far more profoundly affected than non-Aboriginal children. What’s going on?

A: I think it’s complicated, but in order to better understand Aboriginal childhood obesity we need to look beyond general individual risk factors, and consider how colonisation has impacted and continues to impact on the health and wellbeing of our people and communities today.

For example, Aboriginal people were forced off Country, unable to access traditional foods and made to adopt unhealthy western diets whilst living on missions and reserves.

Another thing that should be considered is the exclusion of Aboriginal people in Australia from education, health, politics and all systems, so it’s no wonder we see a gap between our health and the rest of the Australian population and continue to see a lack of relevant policies and programs from state and national governments.

These bigger structural and systemic issues are like a waterfall flowing on to affect communities, families and individuals. And until these issues are addressed, it’s going to be very difficult to close the gap on childhood obesity.

Q: What’s currently being done to address childhood obesity among Aboriginal children?

A: There are many great healthy lifestyle programs for preventing childhood obesity within our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) sector, but generally there’s a lack of investment and funding into these services by government.

This is unfortunate because I think the rest of Australia could learn a lot from the model of healthcare that the ACCHS sector provides for our people. As Darryl Wright, the CEO of Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Corporation always says – our ACCHSs are like one-stop shops catering for all parts of a person’s health and wellbeing. So rather than looking at childhood obesity and thinking only about healthy eating and exercise, this kind of model considers a more holistic approach and the range of things that could be impacting on a person’s health and the community.

As mentioned in our paper, there are also a number of government and mainstream programs targeting healthy weight that have been culturally adapted for Aboriginal children and families. One example is the NSW Go4Fun program, which is designed for 7- to 13-year-olds who are above a healthy weight. When they did an evaluation of the mainstream Go4Fun program, they noticed that there were quite a few Aboriginal children who came into the program, but they had very low completion rates.

This evaluation led Go4Fun to consult with Aboriginal organisations and communities to understand how to improve the program to be more culturally appropriate. And as a result, organisers changed the way they were running the program and also set up Aboriginal advisory groups at local health districts. It’ll be interesting to see if this has positive impacts for the local participating communities.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for these existing programs?

A: There are a few, but the biggest challenge is that these programs are created and developed by non-Aboriginal people for Aboriginal children, meaning that they’re not always relevant, or they don’t consider the holistic approach that’s required to address childhood obesity.

Another important challenge is that some mainstream childhood obesity programs haven’t collected information on Aboriginal children separately, so even though there might be Aboriginal children participating in these programs, they tend not to report those separately.

We also need to consider the focus of these programs, which are currently targeting childhood obesity with healthy eating, education and physical activity. Although these are really important, lots of Aboriginal families are food insecure – which means they’re running out of food and can’t access food or afford to buy more. Recent data shows that 1 in 4 Aboriginal people are food insecure. I believe these rates are underestimated and the rates of Aboriginal families who are food insecure would actually be much higher than this data shows. This is compared with fewer than 1 in 20 people in the general population.

So how are programs that target healthy eating meant to be effective if people can’t even afford to buy food or can’t access it? Again, it’s going back to those bigger issues.

Q: How can Australia begin closing the gap on childhood obesity?

A: I think one thing that could be done is there needs to be more funding and resources put into the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service sector, as they’re run by their community for their community, so they’re best placed to design, implement and evaluate childhood obesity programs. And currently there are no specific policies for Aboriginal childhood obesity – we’re just mentioned as a target group within the general childhood obesity policies. That could be another good place to start.

The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) team.










Q: Why is it so important to have locally-informed, culturally appropriate programs?

A: There is evidence that programs led and delivered by Aboriginal communities lead to better health outcomes for their community. I think it’s so important to have Aboriginal people in leadership and key decision-making roles with a proper seat at the table within all of these systems. And it’s also important to ensure that local Aboriginal voices are heard and they are leaders and drivers of local programs.

If not, I think it’s impossible for government and non-Aboriginal service providers to deliver programs and policies that are going to have a positive impact on the health of our mob. To see real gains, we need all government policies and programs to value self-determination, and these systems need to decolonise for all Australians to be able to have good health.

Find out more

NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health : Download results of the @JeanHailes 2019 #WomensHealthSurvey : Which health topics do women want more information on ?

” The results of the fifth annual Jean Hailes Women’s Health Survey were launched by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt – and showed that more than a third of women who responded to the survey said they have had depression (34.6%) or anxiety (39.4%).

Of the almost 10,000 respondents, 42% of women reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks – and women aged between 18-35 reported the highest levels of anxiety, with 64.1% feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day or at least weekly in the past four weeks.

Women aged 18-35 are also the loneliest of all age groups—almost 40% reported feelings of loneliness every week .

More than 50% of women aged 36-65 perceive themselves as overweight or obese.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the proportion who felt discriminated against was around 35% compared with 16% for non-Indigenous women.”

Media coverage from AJP 

More info from Jean Hailes Website 

Download 35 Page Survey Results


The survey’s chief investigator and Head of Research Partnerships and Philanthropy at Jean Hailes, Dr Rachel Mudge, says the survey findings “underscore the pressure that women across the country face as they juggle work, young children, as well as ageing parents and other social demands”.

“Rates of anxiety and women’s negative perceptions of their bodies are a common theme in our annual survey, something that social media seems to be fuelling,” Dr Mudge says.

In launching the results, Minister Hunt said that they reflect the health needs and behaviour of almost 10,000 women throughout Australia, and have helped shape a better understanding of the emerging issues and trends in women’s health.

“The survey reveals women want more information on anxiety than any other health topic,” Mr Hunt said.

“Women also want more information on menopause, weight management, bone health and dementia.”

He highlighted the Morrison Government’s investment in women’s health, including the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020–2030 as well as the announcement earlier this year of $35 million for ovarian and gynaecological cancer research through the Medical Research Future Fund.

“More than $37 million has been invested since 2013 through the National Health and Medical Research Council for ovarian cancer research,” Mr Hunt said.

“In 2017-18, the Government spent over $21 million to subsidise medicines for ovarian cancer on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and continues to support improved access to medicines and treatments through the PBS and Medicare.

“We have also provided over $4.5 million to Ovarian Cancer Australia for patient support for the TRACEBACK project and the Ovarian Cancer Case Management Pilot.”

Mr Hunt also highlighted the Government’s recent $13.7 million in activities to deal with endometriosis.

However the Acting Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Dr Linc Thurecht highlighted inequities between Australian women.

“An alarming one in six women in Australia say they cannot afford to see a health professional when they need one—and the same proportion experience discrimination when doing so.

“Women aged 18–35 found it hardest to afford a health professional—comprising about one in five in this age group,” Dr Thurecht said.

“There was quite a gap between the rich and not-so-rich. People who said they were ‘living comfortably’ almost universally could see a health professional whenever they needed to.

“For people who said they were ‘just getting by’, around 40% could not afford to see a health professional.

“For people who declared they were ‘finding it very difficult’, a staggering 80% said they could not afford to see a health professional when they needed one.

“Around 16% of the total number of women surveyed felt they experienced discrimination in accessing healthcare—but this appeared to improve with age from 20% in the younger age groups to 9% for the oldest (80+) women’, Dr Thurecht said.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the proportion who felt discriminated against was around 35% compared with 16% for non-Indigenous women.

“These figures, which are about access to needed care, are very disappointing.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ChronicDisease #Prevention News : @ACDPAlliance Health groups welcome action on added sugars labelling and further consider 10 recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system


“Industry spends vast amounts of money advertising unhealthy foods, so it is essential that nutrition information is readily available to help people understand what they are eating and drinking.

Two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese and unhealthy foods, including those high in added sugars, contribute greatly to excess energy intake and unhealthy weight gain”

Chair of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance Sharon McGowan said food labelling is an important part of understanding more about the products we consume every day

Read previous 70 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition Healthy foods articles

The five year review of the HSR system (the Review) has now been completed. See Part 2 Below

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 3211 KB

The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance welcomes the recent decisions to improve food labelling and provide clear and simple health information on food and drinks.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation announced yesterday it would progress added sugars labelling and further consider 10 recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system.

Decisions were also made to provide a nationally consistent approach to energy labelling on fast food menu boards and consider the contribution of alcohol to daily energy intake.

Current Health Star Rating system.

Ms McGowan said overweight and obesity is a key risk factor for many chronic diseases.

“We welcome improvements to existing labelling systems to increase consumer understanding and provide an incentive for industry to create healthier products.”

The Ministerial Forum also released the independent review of the Health Star Rating system with 10 recommendations for strengthening the system, including changes to how the ratings are calculated, and setting targets and timeframes for industry uptake.

The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance has been advocating to improve the Health Star Rating system for years. While the Alliance supports stronger changes to the ratings calculator, Ms McGowan said it was promising to see recommendations enhancing consistency of labels and proposing a mandatory response if voluntary targets are not met.

“Under the current voluntary system, only around 30 percent of eligible products display the health star rating on the label and some manufacturers are applying ratings to the highest scoring products only,” Ms McGowan said.

SMH Editorial The epidemic of childhood obesity and chronic health conditions linked to bad diet has turned supermarket aisles into the front line of one of the hardest debates in politics.

“To truly achieve its purpose and help people compare products, the rating needs to be visible and consistently applied to all foods and drinks.”

The recommendations to improve the Health Star Rating system will be considered by Ministers later this year.

Ms McGowan added “We know that unhealthy food and drinks are a major contributor to overweight and obesity, and that food labelling should be part of an overall approach to creating healthier food environments.”

Read the Health Star Rating report here and the Ministerial Forum communique here.

The five year review of the HSR system (the Review) has now been completed.

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 3211 KB
Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Word 16257 KB

The five year review of the HSR system considered if and how well the objectives of the system have been met and has identified several options for improvements to the system, including communication, monitoring, governance and system/calculator enhancements.

The Review found that the HSR system has been performing well. Whilst there is a broad range of stakeholders with diverse opinions, there is also strong support for the system to continue.

The recommendations contained in the Review Report are designed to address some of the key criticisms of the current system. The key recommendations from the report are that:

  • the HSR system continue as a voluntary system with the addition of some specific industry uptake targets and that the Australian, state and territory and New Zealand governments support the system with funding for a further four years;
  • that changes are made to the way the HSR is calculated to better align with Dietary Guidelines, and including fruit and vegetables into the system; and
  • that some minor changes are made to the governance of the system, including transfer of the HSR calculator to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The next steps will be for members of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation to respond to the Review Report, and the recommendations contained within. It is anticipated that Forum will respond before the end of 2019.
Five Year Review – Draft Report

A draft of the review report was made available for public comment on the Australian Department of Health’s Consultation Hub from Monday 25 February 2019 until midnight Monday 25 March 2019. Following consideration of comments received, the report will be finalised and provided to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (through the HSRAC and the Food Regulation Standing Committee) in mid-2019. mpconsulting sought targeted feedback on the draft recommendations – in particular, any comments on inaccuracies, factual errors and additional considerations or evidence that hadn’t previously been identified.

Draft Five Year Review Report – PDF 2928 KB
Draft Five Year Review Report – Word 21107 KB

A list of submissions for which confidentiality was not requested is below; submissions are available on request from the Front-of-Pack Labelling Secretariat via

List of submissions: draft five year review report – PDF 110 KB
List of submissions: draft five year review report – Excel 13 KB
Five Year Review – Consultation

Detail on previous opportunities to provide feedback during and on the review are available on the Stakeholder Consultation page.

public submission process for the five year review was conducted between June and August 2017. mpconsulting prepared a report on these submissions and proposed a future consultation strategy. A list of submissions made is also available.

Submissions to the five year review of the HSR system – PDF 446 KB
Submissions to the five year review of the HSR system – Excel 23 KB

Report on Submissions to the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – PDF 736 KB
Report on Submissions to the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Word 217 KB

5 Year Review of the Health Star Rating system – Future Consultation Opportunities – PDF 477 KB
5 Year Review of the Health Star Rating system – Future Consultation Opportunities – Word 28 KB

mpconsulting also prepared a Navigation Paper to guide Stage 2 (Wider Consultations Feb-Apr 2018) of their consultation strategy.

Navigation Paper – PDF 355 KB
Navigation Paper – Word 252 KB

Drawing on the early submissions and public workshops conducted across Australia and New Zealand in February- April 2018, mpconsulting identified 10 key issues relating to the products on which the HSR appears and the way that stars are calculated. A range of options for addressing identified issues were identified and, where possible, mpconsulting specified its preferred option. These issues are described in the Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement.

Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement – PDF 944 KB
Five Year Review of the Health Star Rating System – Consultation Paper: Options for System Enhancement – Word 430 KB

This Consultation Paper is informed by the TAG’s in-depth review of the technical components of the system. The TAG developed a range of technical papers on various issues identified by stakeholders, available on the mpconsulting website.

From October to December 2018, mpconsulting sought stakeholder views on the issues and the options, input on the impacts of the various options, and any suggestions for alternative options to address the identified issues. Written submissions could be made via the Australian Department of Health’s Consultation Hub.

mpconsulting held three further stakeholder workshops in Melbourne, Auckland and Sydney in November 2018 to enable stakeholders to continue to provide input on key issues for the review, including on options for system enhancements.
Five Year Review – Process

In April 2016, the Health Star Rating (HSR) Advisory Committee (HSRAC) commenced planning for the five year review of the HSR system.

Terms of Reference for the five year review follow:
Terms of Reference for the five year review of the Health Star Rating system – PDF 23 KB
Terms of Reference for the five year review of the Health Star Rating system – Word 29 KB

In September 2016, the HSRAC established a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to analyse the performance of the HSR Calculator and respond to technical issues and related matters referred to it by the HSRAC.

HSRAC Members agreed that, in order to achieve a degree of independence, consultant(s) should be engaged to complete the review. In July 2017, following an Approach to Market process, Matthews Pegg Consulting (mpconsulting) was engaged as the independent reviewer.

The timeline for the five year review.
Five year review timeline – PDF 371 KB
Five year review timeline – Excel 14 KB

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingTheGap : Aboriginal owned health promotion company @SparkHealthAus denied right to use Aboriginal flag and use of word ‘gap’for #ClothingTheGap : @theprojecttv


“ The flag represents much more than just a business opportunity. 

It’s been an important symbol to Aboriginal people for a really long time, a symbol of resistance, of struggle of pride, and that’s why we’ve got such a strong attachment.

One ( of the two companies ) is an international worldwide company [pursuing us] for using the word ‘Gap’ and the other is for trying to share our culture.

The purpose of Spark Health is to improve Aboriginal peoples lives.”

Spark Health founder and Gunditjmara woman Laura Thompson spoke to the The Australian and the ABC describing the two-pronged attack after the Koori Mail broke the story 

Koori Mail reporter Darren Coyne worked really hard over the past few weeks to break an important story about copyright of the Aboriginal flag : See Page 3 June 5 Edition

Read Download HERE 

Six weeks, six deadly health dares, six workouts, one grouse piece of merch! Spark Health Australia are proud to work with the ACCHOHealth Services team at the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Op in Geelong to deliver ‘I Dare Ya’, a six week health and well-being program

An Aboriginal business is fighting for the right to feature the Indigenous flag in its “Clothing the Gap” fashion designs, while also fending off a copyright attack from a global retail giant.

Spark Health, which is an Aboriginal-owned health promotion business, has been told by US-based retailer GAP INC that it cannot use the word “Gap’’ in its fashion line, which plays on the phrase “Closing the Gap’’ that is used to describe the efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – FEBRUARY 20: Gap clothing is displayed at a Gap store on February 20, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Gap Inc.

To add to its woes, the Preston-based profit-for-purpose outfit has been sent a “cease and desist” letter by Queensland-based WAM Clothing over its use of the Aboriginal flag in its clothing designs.

The copyright of the Aboriginal flag is owned by its designer, Harold Thomas, a Luritja man, who has licensed its use in clothing exclusively to WAM.

Ms Thompson said she wrote to Mr Thomas requesting permission to use the Aboriginal flag in August last year.

She said she was happy to pay a fee in order to replicate the design.

An online petition started by Spark Health, criticising the exclusive licensing of the flag to a non-indigenous company, has gathered more than 20,000 + signatures so far.

Sign the petition or see Part 3 Below

“This is a question of control,” the petition reads.

“Should WAM Clothing, a non-indigenous business, hold the monopoly in a market to profit off Aboriginal peoples’ identity and love for ‘their’ flag?”

Spark Health director of operations, Sarah Sheridan, who is not indigenous, said WAM was exploiting Aboriginal Australia.

“Non-indigenous Australians must listen to, and support the voices of Aboriginal people and back their self-determination,” she said.

“Rather than exploiting them in the way that WAM clothing currently are.”

A WAM spokesperson said it was obligated to enforce the copyright.

“In addition to creating our own product lines bearing the Aboriginal flag, WAM Clothing works with manufacturers and sellers of clothing bearing the Aboriginal flag — including Aboriginal-owned organisations — providing them with options to continue manufacturing and selling their own clothing ranges bearing the flag, which ensures that Harold Thomas is paid a royalty,” the spokesperson said.

WAM provided a statement from Mr Thomas, in which he said, as the designer, it was up to him to decide who could use the Aboriginal flag.

“As it is my common law right and aboriginal heritage right … I can choose who I like to have a licence agreement to manufacture and sell goods which have the Aboriginal flag on it,” he said.

WAM Clothing was co-founded by Ben Wootzer, whose previous company Birubi Art was found to be in breach of Australian consumer law after selling over 18,000 Aboriginal such as boomerangs and didgeridoos were in fact made in Indonesia.

GAP Inc did not respond to The Australian’s request for comment.

Part 2

New licence owners of Aboriginal flag threaten football codes and clothing companies

Indigenous reporter Isabella Higgins

From the ABC News

The Aboriginal flag is unique among Australia’s national flags, because the copyright of the image is owned by an individual.

A Federal Court ruling in 1997 recognised the ownership claim by designer Harold Thomas.

The Luritja artist has licensing agreements with just three companies; one to reproduce flags, and the others to reproduce the image on objects and clothing.

WAM Clothing, a new Queensland-based business, secured the exclusive clothing licence late last year.

Since acquiring it, the company has threatened legal action against several organisations.

The ABC understands WAM Clothing issued notices to the NRL and AFL over their use of the flag on Indigenous-round jerseys.

A spokesman for the NRL said the organisation was aware of the notices, but would not comment further.

The ABC has contacted the AFL, but no official response has been received.

WAM Clothing said simply it was “in discussions with the NRL, AFL and other organisations regarding the use of the Aboriginal flag on clothing”.

The Aboriginal flag has been widely used on the country’s sporting fields, carried by Cathy Freeman in iconic moments at the 1994 Commonwealth Games and 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It only became a recognised national flag in 1995 under the Keating government, but had been widely used by the Aboriginal community since the 1970s.

The Torres Strait Islander flag was also recognised as a national flag at this time, but the copyright is collectively owned by the Torres Strait Regional Council.

The move to adopt both flags as symbols of state was somewhat controversial at the time, with the then opposition leader John Howard opposing the move.

PHOTO: Indigenous artist Harold Thomas is the designer of the Aboriginal flag. (ABC News: Nick Hose)

Former head of the Australian Copyright Council Fiona Phillips said there could be an argument for the Government or another agency buying back the copyright licence from Mr Thomas.

“The fact that the flag has been recognised since 1995 as an official Australian flag takes it out of the normal copyright context and gives it an extra public policy element,” she said.

She said it was an image of significance to a large part of the nation and it was important there was some control to avoid potential exploitation.

“It’s quite unusual for copyright to be held by an individual and controlled by an individual rather than a government or statutory authority who, maybe for policy reasons, has other interests in mind,” Ms Phillips said.

“There has to be a way that Mr Thomas can be remunerated fairly but where other people can also have access to the flag.”

Fight to stop flag ‘monopoly’

A Victorian-based health organisation, Spark Health, which produces merchandise with the flag on it, was issued with a cease and desist notice last week and given three business days to stop selling their stock.

The flag represents much more than just a business opportunity, the organisation’s owner, Laura Thompson said.

“It’s been an important symbol to Aboriginal people for a really long time, a symbol of resistance, of struggle of pride, and that’s why we’ve got such a strong attachment,” Ms Thompson said.

PHOTO: Laura Thompson was given three days to cease and desist selling her merchandise. (ABC News: Loretta Florance)

The organisation started an online petition, that has attracted about 13,000 signatures, calling on Mr Thomas to stop the exclusive licensing arrangements.

“We want flag rights for our people, we’ve fought enough, we’ve struggled, we don’t want to struggle to use our flag now,” Ms Thompson said.

“We don’t want anyone to have a monopoly over how we use the Aboriginal flag. The fact they’re a non-Indigenous company doesn’t sit well with me.

WAM Clothing said it would work with all organisations, and provide them with options to continue manufacturing their own clothing ranges bearing the flag.

“WAM Clothing has obligations under its Licence Agreement to enforce Harold Thomas’ Copyright, which includes issuing cease and desist notices,” a spokeswoman for the company said.

Mr Thomas said it was his “common law right” to choose who he enters licensing agreements with.

PHOTO: Spark Health produced a range of clothing featuring the Indigenous flag to help fund its community programs. (ABC News: Loretta Florance)

Wiradjuri artist Lani Balzan designed the NRL’s St George Illawarra Indigenous jersey for four years.

She said it was a disappointing development and will make her reconsider her designs for the football club and other institutions in the future.

“Schools, when they buy their uniforms through me, we put the Torres Strait and the Aboriginal flag on both shoulders, so I don’t know if we will be allowed to do that anymore,” she said.

“It’s not just the flag, it’s what represents them and our culture and who we are, to have some non-Indigenous company get copyright, it’s really upsetting.

“It’s disappointing because it’s coming down to money and the flag doesn’t represent money, it represents us as Aboriginal people, and our culture and who we are.”

Conduct of WAM director’s former business ‘unacceptable’

One of the directors of WAM Clothing, Benjamin Wooster, is the former owner of the now defunct Birubi Arts, a company taken to court over its production of fake Aboriginal art.

In October last year, the Federal Court found Birubi Arts was misleading customers to believe its products were genuine, when in fact they were produced and painted in Indonesia.

At the time, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Birubi’s conduct was “unacceptable”.

Weeks later Birubi Arts ceased operating, and the next month the director and a new partner opened a new business, WAM Clothing.

Birubi Arts company sold more than 18,000 fake boomerangs, bullroarers, didgeridoos and message stones to retail outlets around Australia between July 2017 to November 2017.

The case is due before court again this week, for a penalty hearing, which some lawyers expect could see a hefty fine handed down that could run into the millions.

The company is now in the hands of liquidators, and the ABC understands it “doesn’t have any capacity” to pay further debts.

The director of WAM Clothing is also in charge of another company, Giftsmate, which has the exclusive licence with Mr Thomas to reproduce objects with the Aboriginal flag on it.

Mr Thomas reiterated his support for all the companies he worked with.

“It’s taken many years to find the appropriate Australian company that respects and honours the Aboriginal flag meaning and copyright and that is WAM Clothing,” Mr Thomas said.

“I have done this with Carroll & Richardson [flag licensee], Gifts Mate and the many approvals I’ve given to [other] Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal organisations.”

Part 3 Join us in the fight for #FlagRights, for #PrideNotProfit.

We’ve always said that our products are conversation starters. We never thought as tiny little Aboriginal-led business that we’d come under scrutiny for celebrating the Aboriginal Flag or using the word ‘gap’ in our name as we try to self-determine our futures while we work towards adding years to peoples lives.

Show your support, sign the petition

Part 4


NACCHO #ClosetheGap in Aboriginal Dental /Oral Health @AIHW Report #WOHD19 #rethinksugarydrink : It’s #WorldOralHealthDay @Live_Lighter Sugary drinks are the leading cause of tooth decay : We’re urging our mob to use this info as motivation to cut back on sugary drinks

” Indigenous Australians are more likely than other Australians to have multiple caries and untreated dental disease, and less likely to have received preventive dental care (AHMAC 2017). The oral health status of Indigenous Australians, like all Australians, is influenced by many factors (see What contributes to poor oral health?) and a tendency towards unfavourable dental visiting patterns, broadly associated with accessibility, cost and a lack of cultural awareness by some service providers (COAG 2015; NACDH 2012).” 

See Part 1 below AIHW Report

See full AIHW Web Report HERE 

Read over 35 NACCHO Aboriginal Oral Dental Health articles HERE 

” With new figures revealing almost half of Australian children aged 5-10 experience tooth decay in their baby teeth [1], the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance is urging Aussies to give their teeth a break from sugary drinks and make the switch to water in a bid to protect their oral health.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures released today also reveal this trend continues into adulthood with Australians aged 15 and over having an average of nearly 13 decayed, missing or filled teeth.

Sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks, are a major contributor of added sugar in Australian children’s diets and the leading cause of tooth decay.’ ,

From Re Think Sugary Drinks Website See in Full Part 2 Below

Part 1 AIHW Report Oral health and dental care in Australia

Good oral health is fundamental to overall health and wellbeing (COAG 2015). Without it, a person’s general quality of life and the ability to eat, speak and socialise is compromised, resulting in pain, discomfort and embarrassment.

Oral health refers to the condition of a person’s teeth and gums, as well as the health of the muscles and bones in their mouth (AHMAC 2017). Poor oral health—mainly tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss—affects many Australian children and adults, and contributed 4.4% of all the burden that non-fatal burden diseases placed on the community in 2011. Oral health generally deteriorates over a person’s lifetime

What contributes to poor oral health?

Many factors contribute to poor oral health (NACDH 2012), including:

  • consumption of sugar, tobacco and alcohol
  • a lack of good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups
  • a lack of fluoridation in some water supplies
  • access and availability of services, including:
    • affordability of private dental care
    • long waiting periods for public dental care.

What is the impact of poor oral health?

The most common oral diseases affect the teeth (tooth decay, called ‘caries’) and gums (periodontal disease). Oral disease can destroy the tissues in the mouth, leading to lasting physical and psychological disability (NACDH 2012). Tooth loss can reduce the functionality of the mouth, making chewing and swallowing more challenging, which in turn can compromise nutrition. Poor nutrition can impair general health and exacerbate existing health conditions (NACDH 2012). Poor oral health is also associated with a number of chronic diseases, including stroke and cardiovascular disease (DHSV 2011) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 demonstrates the links between poor oral health and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung conditions, oral cancers, adverse pregnancy outcomes, stroke and diabetes.

Poor oral health can also affect a person’s wellbeing. Dental disease can impair a person’s appearance and speech, eroding their self-esteem, which in turn can lead to restricted participation at school, the workplace, home and other social settings (NACDH 2012).

Some groups are at greater risk of poor oral health

The National Oral Health Plan identifies four priority population groups that have poorer oral health than the general population and also experience barriers to accessing oral health care—either in the private or public sector. State and territory governments are the current providers of most public dental services, and access is largely targeted towards people on low incomes or holders of concession cards. Eligibility requirements can vary between states and territories (AIHW 2018).

The four priority population groups identified in the plan are:

People who are socially disadvantaged or on low incomes: This group has historically been identified as those on a low income and/or receiving some form of government income assistance, but now extends to include people experiencing other forms of disadvantage including refugees, homeless people, some people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people in institutions or correctional facilities (COAG 2015). Poorer oral health results from infrequent dental care. Barriers include cost, appropriateness of service delivery and lower levels of health literacy, including oral health (COAG 2015).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AustraliansIndigenous Australians are more likely than other Australians to have multiple caries and untreated dental disease, and less likely to have received preventive dental care (AHMAC 2017). The oral health status of Indigenous Australians, like all Australians, is influenced by many factors (see What contributes to poor oral health?) and a tendency towards unfavourable dental visiting patterns, broadly associated with accessibility, cost and a lack of cultural awareness by some service providers (COAG 2015; NACDH 2012).

People living in regional and remote areasOverall, this group has poorer oral health than those in Major cities (COAG 2015), and oral health status generally declines as remoteness increases. Rural Australians have access to fewer dental practitioners than their city counterparts, which, coupled with longer travel times and limited transport options to services, affects the oral health care that they can receive (COAG 2015; Bishop & Laverty 2015). People living in Remote and Very remote areas are also more likely to smoke and drink at risky levels. They have reduced access to fluoridated drinking water and face increased costs of healthy food choices and oral hygiene products. These risk factors contribute to this population’s overall poorer oral health (COAG 2015).

People with additional and/or specialised health care needsThis group includes people living with mental illness, people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities, people with complex medical needs and frail older people. These people can be vulnerable to oral disease; for example, some medications for chronic diseases can cause a dry mouth, which increases the risk of tooth decay (Queensland Health 2008). A number of factors make accessing dental care more difficult for this group, including:

  • a shortage of dental health professionals with skills in special-needs dentistry
  • difficulties in physically accessing appropriate dental treatment facilities
  • the cost of treatment. People with additional and/or specialised health care needs often have their earning capacity eroded by ill health (COAG 2015).

Why does oral health vary across Australia?

People in some states and territories have generally poorer oral health than others. For example, the National Child Oral Health Study found that the prevalence of caries in the deciduous teeth of children was significantly higher in Northern Territory and Queensland than in all other states and territories (Do & Spencer 2016). Oral health status is influenced by a complex interaction of factors, as outlined above. These factors should be considered when looking at results by state and territory. For example:

  • all people living in the Northern Territory were located in Outer regionalRemote or Very remote areas, whereas the majority of the Victorian population were located in Major cities in 2016 (ABS 2018a)
  • the Northern Territory has Australia’s highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (26% of its population) which is much higher than the next highest state, Tasmania (4.6% of its population) (ABS 2017)
  • Tasmania has the highest proportion of people living in the lowest socioeconomic areas (37%) (refer to Technical notes for explanation of SEIFA) (ABS 2018b).

The variations observed in oral health status between state and territory populations may also be partly explained by differences in individual state and territory oral health care funding, service models and eligibility requirements, which can result in varied patterns of dental visiting among residents (AIHW 2018). Oral health campaigns and policies can also make an impact. For example, water fluoridation coverage in Queensland has reduced since the Queensland Government transferred the decision whether to fluoridate water supplies from state to local governments in 2008, despite evidence that access to fluoridated drinking water has been shown to reduce tooth decay (Queensland Health 2015; NHMRC 2017).

Part 2 Australians’ love affair with sugary drinks rots the smiles of children as young as five

Leading health bodies call for people to rethink sugary drink this World Oral Health Day.

With new figures revealing almost half of Australian children aged 5-10 experience tooth decay in their baby teeth [1], the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance is urging Aussies to give their teeth a break from sugary drinks and make the switch to water in a bid to protect their oral health.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures released today also reveal this trend continues into adulthood with Australians aged 15 and over having an average of nearly 13 decayed, missing or filled teeth.

Sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks, are a major contributor of added sugar in Australian children’s diets and the leading cause of tooth decay.

On World Oral Health Day today, Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, a partner of Rethink Sugary Drink, is urging Australians to see this information as motivation to cut back on sugary drinks.

While regular sugary drink consumption leaves a lasting effect on Australians’ oral health, Mr Sinclair said the risks extend beyond just teeth.

“These super sugary drinks don’t stop at ruining Aussie smiles. In the long run they can lead to unhealthy weight gain, increasing the risk of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and 13 types of cancer.”

“It’s sadly no surprise that tooth decay is hitting Australian kids hard, given the overwhelming availability of sugary drinks. Not only are there significantly more sugary drink choices available today, they are everywhere our kids look. Ironically they’re even in venues designed to help our kids be healthy, such as sports centres, sporting clubs, as well as places they visit regularly like train stations, festivals and events,” Mr Sinclair said.

“Big beverage brands don’t just stop there – they also sweet talk our kids into guzzling high-sugar drinks through social media, and outdoor and online advertising. We need government to invest in public education campaigns to cut through the marketing spin and expose the health impacts of sugary drinks.”

A/Prof Matthew Hopcraft, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch, a Rethink Sugary Drink partner, has seen the devastating impact sugary drinks has on children’s teeth and wants Australians to consider the consequences of drinking too many.

“I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact tooth decay has on the health, nutrition, social and emotional wellbeing of these kids and their families. There are extreme cases where dentists are extracting all 20 baby teeth from kids as young as 3 – it’s not pretty.” A/Prof Hopcraft said.

“Some people may not realise every time they take a sip from a sugary drink they expose their teeth to an acid attack, dissolving the outer surface of our tooth enamel. This regular loss of enamel can lead to cavities and exposure of the inner layers of the tooth that may leave them feeling very sensitive and painful.

“Healthy teeth are an integral part of good oral health, enabling us to eat, speak and socialise without pain, discomfort or embarrassment. It’s disheartening to know 27% of Aussie kids feel uncomfortable about the appearance of their teeth. No kid should look back on their childhood and remember the distress and pain that came as a result of drinking too many sugary drinks.”

A/Prof Hopcraft said World Oral Health Day serves the perfect chance for Australians to rethink their choice of drink.

“We know less than 10 per cent of Australian adults have managed to avoid tooth decay. There is no reason why we can’t turn these numbers around. If Australians can simply cut back on sugary drinks or remove them entirely from their diet, their teeth will be much stronger and healthier for it,” A/Prof Hopcraft said

“We recommend taking a look at how much sugar is in these drinks – people may be shocked to know some have as many as 16 teaspoons of sugar. Water is always the best choice and your teeth will thank you in the long run.”

In support of World Oral Health Day the Rethink Sugary Drink alliance are calling for the following actions in addition to the restriction of unhealthy drink marketing to address the issue of sugary drink overconsumption:

A public education campaign supported by Australian governments to highlight the health impacts of regular sugary

[1] AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Oral health and dental care in Australia, 2014-15 and 2016-17

About Rethink Sugary Drink: Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between the Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Australian Dental Association, Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists’ Association, Cancer Council Australia, Dental Health Services Victoria, Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Diabetes Australia, Healthier Workplace WA, Kidney Health Australia, LiveLighter, The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation, Nutrition Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons, Stroke Foundation, Parents’ Voice, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the YMCA to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption.

Visit for more information.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health : #SaltAwarenessWeek #UnpackTheSalt #EatLessSalt @georgeinstitute Report : Which fast #junkfood giants packs the most amount of salt in your kids’ meal?

New research has revealed the hidden toll that fast food kids’ meals can have on young children’s health. Some meals aimed at kids contain more than an entire day’s maximum recommended salt intake.

Most disturbing, the salt content of fast foods like chicken nuggets in Australia can be more than twice as salty as similar meals in the UK.

A new report from The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation analysed the salt content in kids’ meals from four major fast food outlets (Hungry Jack’s, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway) as part of a global push to reduce the salt content in children’s food during World Salt Awareness Week.

Originally Published HERE 

The report found high levels and a huge variation in the salt content of children’s meals across the four chains. A kids’ chicken nuggets meal from Hungry Jack’s contained more than an entire day’s worth of salt for a 4-8 year old child, a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries contained almost two thirds of a day’s worth of salt, and a KFC Kids Meal Snack Popcorn contained almost half a days’ worth of salt.

Subway Kids’ Paks were the least salty meal options, providing mini subs and purees rather than burgers with chips. All of their meals were found to be in the top five lowest salt kids’ meal options and contained one gram of salt or less per meal.

Meals with fries were among the saltiest options. McDonalds was the only chain that provided apple slices, yoghurt and cherry tomatoes as an option, instead of fries.

Heart Foundation dietitian Sian Armstrong said while none of the popular meals are healthy options, it was concerning to see some kids’ meals containing more than an entire day’s worth of salt.

“An alarming 80 per cent of Aussie kids are eating too much salt with most of it coming from processed food and fast food takeaways,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Consuming excess salt can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Studies suggest that children with elevated blood pressure may go onto suffer it as adults.

“Most parents know that fast food isn’t a healthy option for their kids, however they may not realise that a single kids’ meal could blow out an entire day’s salt intake.

“This research shows fast food doesn’t have to be this salty. There is no reason why chicken nuggets at KFC and Hungry Jack’s should be almost twice as salty as the chicken nuggets from McDonald’s. The same goes for fries. Fast food outlets can and must reduce the salt content of their meals.”

Read over 100 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition articles HERE 

Key findings:

  • The average salt content of children’s meals across the four outlets was 1.57g of salt or 45% of a child’s recommended daily salt intake.
  • The highest salt children’s meal was the Hungry Jack’s 6 Chicken Nugget Kids’ pack (includes a dipping sauce and small chips), which contained 3.78g salt or 108% of a 4-8-year-old child’s recommended daily salt intake.
  • The lowest salt children’s meal was the Subway Kids’ Pak Veggie Delite Mini Sub, (includes a mini-sub and SPC puree snack), which contained 0.44g salt or 13% of a 4-8-year-old child’s daily recommended salt intake.
  • McDonald’s is the only fast-food outlet offering fresh fruit (apple slices) and vegetables (grape tomatoes) with the Kids Meal packs.
  • Within the retailers, there was a range in salt levels for children’s meals. For example, a McDonald’s Happy Meal containing 3 chicken nuggets, apple slices and water contains 16% of a 4-8-year-old child’s salt intake, whereas the saltier option of a cheeseburger, fries and water contains 66% of a 4-8-year-old child’s salt intake.
  • There are huge variations in the same product at the different outlets; a 6 pack of chicken nuggets from KFC and Hungry Jack’s contained twice as much salt as 6 pack of chicken nuggets from McDonald’s
  • The UK set salt targets for takeaway kids’ meals of less than 1.8 grams of salt per meal. Thirty per cent of the meals analysed in this report exceeded this target. All Subway products met this target.

The George Institute’s Public Health Nutritionist and the report’s lead author Clare Farrand said it was clear there needed to be more regulation on fast food outlets to make their products healthier.

“It is unacceptable that some children’s meals in Australia are significantly saltier than similar meals purchased in the UK,” Ms Farrand said.

“Hungry Jack’s 6 pack nugget meal was 1.5 times saltier in Australia than in the UK and McDonald’s 6 pack nugget meal was a whopping 1.7 times saltier.”

“The fact that some companies produce the same foods with a lot less salt in the UK demonstrates that they can, and should for all countries.”

“We know that some companies are doing better than others – all of the Subway kids’ meals meet the UK targets – but clearly more needs to be done to reduce the salt content across the board.”

VicHealth dietitian Jenny Reimers said when it comes to kids’ meals it was time for fast food outlets to make the default choice the healthier option.

“Kids aren’t born craving salty food – we develop this taste preference based on exposure so it’s really important parents limit the amount of salty food their kids eat,” Ms Reimers said.

“Fast food really should be occasional treats, yet the average family has takeaway almost once a week. If you’re going to have takeaway foods, try less salty options with fresh fruit and vegetables included.

“While it’s encouraging that some fast food outlets are including fresh fruit and vegies as options in their kids’ meals this should be the default and it should be offered at all restaurants.”

Tips for consumers:

  • Limit fast food – these discretionary foods should only be eaten in small amounts as a treat every now and again
  • If you are eating fast food, try to choose options with fruit and vegetables as these are likely to be lower in salt
  • Parents looking to lower their family’s salt intake can sign up to the Unpack Your Lunch 10-Day Salt Challengewhere they will receive tips to reduce salt, blogs and low salt recipes.

About the Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership

The Victorian Salt Reduction Partnership was established in 2014 in response to alarming high levels of salt consumption by the Victorian public.

The partnership comprises of peak public health organisations: VicHealth, Heart Foundation, The George Institute for Global Health, Deakin University Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), National Stroke Foundation, Kidney Health Australia, The Victorian Department for Health and Human Services, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Food Innovation Australia Ltd, CSIRO and the High Blood Pressure Research Council.

Australia is committed to meeting the World Health Organization’s target of 30 percent reduction in average population salt intake by 2025. To achieve this, the partnership has developed a comprehensive set of actions aimed at gaining consensus and commitment for salt reduction action from governments, public and industry in Victoria.