NACCHO Aboriginal Health Policy Alert : Closing the gap needs urgent action to overcome food insecurity

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‘The land and the sea is our food security. It is our right. Food security for us has two parts:

Food security is when the food from our ancestors is protected and always there for us and our children. It is also when we can easily access and afford the right non-traditional food for a collective healthy and active life.

When we are food secure we can provide, share and fulfil our responsibilities, we can choose good food, knowing how to make choices and how to prepare and use it.’

Developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait People from a series of workshops held within remote communities in 2010, drawing on insights and using the definition of food security:

Picture above Project title: A systems perspective on the prevention of chronic disease for urban Aboriginal communities: Improving food security

Solutions that address social and cultural factors that are made and rolled out together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are crucial to improving food security and achieving health equality,’

Donna Murray, CEO of Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

” Improving food security would have far-reaching and long-lasting effects in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing outcomes.

‘Reducing hunger and malnutrition within some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by improving food security, will help stop crippling rates of preventable diseases like heart disease, kidney disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes,’

Daniel James from the National Heart Foundation of Australia

The health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is set to widen unless urgent action is taken to address availability and affordability of nutritious food among Indigenous communities, leading health organisations have warned.

A coalition of organisations released their blueprint for improving food security at Parliament House in Canberra this week:

Download copy of Blueprint here :

policy-statement-closing-the-gap-food-security

The coalition is comprised of Australian Red Cross, Dietitians Association of Australia, Indigenous Allied Health Australia, National Heart Foundation of Australia, Public Health Association of Australia and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

These organisations have been working on the issue of food security over the years through workforce training and development, remote food supply, research, delivering food and nutrition programs across Australia, and advocating for change.

But they’re calling for further collaboration to bring greater national attention to the issue and want a coordinated response to enable effective action.

See Healthinfonet Research

Their blueprint calls for sustained action and leadership from all levels of government and nongovernment organisations towards food and nutrition security, based on approaches that work and have been developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Latest figures show around one in four (23%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in a household that, over a 12-month period, had run out of food and could not afford to buy more – a figure six times higher than non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households have, on average, a weekly gross income which is $250 less than that of non-Indigenous households2, with as much as 80 per cent of the family income used up in buying the foods needed for a healthy diet .

The organisations want food and nutrition security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be front and centre in the country’s National Nutrition Policy, and in rolling out the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

In addition, the policy statement calls for:

Australia to sign up to the policy recommendations outlined in the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2008) to address the underlying barriers to food security in Australia, such as housing and income.

Training and job opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work with their local communities on improving food security and closing Australia’s food and nutrition gap.

Ongoing monitoring of the availability, affordability, accessibility and acceptability of healthy food, with this tracked and evaluated against food security policy actions.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander food security is shaped by complex and interrelated factors. There is no quick fix here, a strong plan addressing the underlying complexity is one important step,’ said Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia.

Australian Red Cross CEO Judy Slatyer said: ‘There should not be a single Australian who is unable to access or buy adequate food, but the reality is that there is great inequality in who can access healthy food and who can’t. There are many reasons – poverty, low income, and poor housing, including a lack of the basics needed to store and prepare food. Addressing these issues would certainly make having a healthy diet more accessible.’

‘Improving availability and affordability of healthy food for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families could counter the current situation where 41 per cent of daily energy (kilojoule) intake comes from ‘discretionary’ foods, such as take-away and convenience foods, which are seen as more affordable and filling,’ said Claire Hewat, CEO of the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people live an average of ten years less than other Australians, despite improvements in some areas of Indigenous health.

The coalition of organisations stress that improved food security among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is critical to Australia ‘closing the gap’ in chronic diseases and life expectancy with non-Indigenous Australians.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal #AHWW Healthy Weight Week : We can close the Indigenous nutrition gap – here’s how

FOOD

After years of neglect and a notable absence in last week’s Closing the Gap report, nutrition is finally being recognised as integral to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

This article is part of the NACCHO series for #AHWW Healthy Weight Week

This belated realisation is puzzling, given poor diet is a major cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and some cancers. Nutrition is particularly poor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, where it is estimated that at least 19% of the burden of disease is due to poor diet; much more than due to smoking.

From Amanda Lee The Conversation

Unhealthy discretionary (“junk”) foods that are high in salt, fat or sugar make up more than 41% of the energy intake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.

On top of this, more than 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders report running out of food during the last 12 months and not being able to afford to buy more.

One of the rejected Close the Gap equity targets was that, by 2018, 90% of Indigenous families could access a healthy food basket for less than 25% of their income. But healthy foods can still cost double this.

What works

Improving nutrition can be complex, but the people of Minjilang in Arnhem Land showed in the early 1990s that rapid, marked and sustained health improvements are possible. In just 12 months, the community achieved a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (12%), lowered blood pressure (8%), improved vitamin levels, weight and diabetes.

The main reason for success was that the multi-strategy Survival Tucker program was directed by the community.

However, these positive results have not been widely replicated.

Improving nutrition is complicated but it’s possible. Sophie Nelson and son Juriahus in Pipalyatjara, South Australia. Photo by Suzanne Bryce, NPY Women’s Council

What doesn’t work

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition Strategy and Action Plan 2000-2010 provided a framework to address both food supply and demand. But while evaluation showed some promising results, particularly in workforce development, implementation was poorly resourced and patchy.

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments developed the National Strategy for Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities. Again, a subsequent audit found that resourcing had been poor, so few outcomes were achieved.

Since 2010, there has been a nutrition policy vacuum in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health services persevere, but efforts tend to be opportunistic, fractured and ad hoc due to lack of resources, support and coordination.

Current projects mainly focus on nutrition education of children and school-based activities including gardening. Healthy lifestyle workers were involved in some of these activities but are being phased out.

Remote community store groups such as Arnhem Land Progress Association and Retail Stores in Queensland, have confirmed the benefits of store nutrition policies.

Outback Stores was established by the Commonwealth government in 2006 to improve diet in remote communities. This publicly funded venture provides little transparency around nutrition data, but last week admitted to selling 1.1 million litres of sugar-sweetened soft drink per year in its 36 stores.

Most recent nutrition research efforts focus on cutting high sugar intakes or increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables. But while these seem like obvious targets, it’s not that simple.

Our recent study describes efforts to improve nutrition over the past 30 years in Central Australian communities now serviced by Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council. It shows that some improvements have been made: decreasing sugar (from 30% to 22% of energy intake), increasing availability and affordability of fruit and vegetables leading to a doubling of consumption, and consequent improvement in some nutrient intakes.

However, the overall effect has been a decrease in total diet quality. “Junk” food’s contribution to the average energy intake increased by 3%, with locals consuming more sugar-sweetened soft drinks, convenience meals such as microwavable pizzas and unhealthy take-away foods.

During this time, Mai Wiru also lost funding for its nutritionist.

Reforms need to improve availability, affordability, accessibility and promotion of healthy food. Christine Watson, Mutitjulu, NT. Photo by Suzanne Bryce, NPY Women’s Council

These results confirm that Aboriginal communities can exert control over some aspects of their food supply. But overall, concerted action and more resources are required to help communities tackle the broader impacts of the current Australian food system on our health.

A major barrier is that community stores are seen as small businesses rather than as essential services and are subject to commercial pressures to sell cheap, unhealthy food at high profit margins.

One worrying recent example is the advent of private-enterprise bakeries in Northern Territory communities. These are promoted as providing local employment opportunities and solutions to food insecurity but mainly sell unhealthy options.

What more needs to be done?

Evidence-based nutrition programs are required urgently in urban, rural and remote locations.

Reforms must include structural and regulatory changes to improve availability, affordability, accessibility and promotion of healthy food. Increased community capacity to prepare, cook and store healthy foods is also essential, for example, by improving housing.

Evidence-based economic interventions such as freight-subsidies, cross-subsidisation of healthy food and “fat taxes” need to be trialled.

Effective primary care strategies such as targeted family support, “well person’s health checks”, breastfeeding promotion and infant growth assessment and action programs are ready and waiting for funding to be implemented and expanded.

Above all, to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nutrition and health we need real community consultation, improved public governance and political will.

NACCHO NEWSPAPER PROMOTION

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign for the governments of Australia to commit to achieving equality  for Indigenous people in the areas of health and  life expectancy within 25 years.

Response to this NACCHO media initiative has been nothing short of sensational, with feedback from around the country suggesting we really kicked a few positive goals for national Aboriginal health.

Thanks to all our supporters, most especially our advertisers, NACCHO’S Aboriginal Health News is here to stay.

We are now looking to all our members, programs and sector stakeholders for advertising, compelling articles, eye-catching images and commentary for inclusion in our next edition April 6

This 24-page newspaper is produced and distributed as an insert in the Koori Mail, circulating 14,000 full-colour print copies nationally via newsagents and subscriptions.

Our audited readership (Audit Bureau of Circulations) is 100,000 readers!

More info and rate card HERE

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health :The high cost of healthy eating in remote communities

foodabank

I feel strongly that we should as a nation have some kind of way of giving people in remote parts ccess to fresh food at capital city supermarket prices. It wouldn’t cost us much in relative terms,”

“We give a huge diesel fuel rebate to mining companies and yet we don’t invest in the health of people, particularly children.”

She advocates a junk food tax to reduce the cost of fresh food and encouraging more locally produced food

University of SA Professor Kerin O’Dea

The Ngaanyatjarra Health Service (NACCHO member) provides health care to 2300 people living in a dozen communities across the Great Victorian and Gibson Deserts of central WA.

Chief executive Brett Cowling said the burden of chronic disease was “huge” and still growing in many remote areas.

But he said the problem was being tackled, and in some cases reversed, by the communities themselves

PICTURE ABOVE : Foodbank WA runs breakfast programs in more than 400 schools across the state, providing shelf-stable food and working with communities to make positive health behaviour changes.

WOULD you pay about $9 for six mushrooms  at your  supermarket in Perth? Or a similar amount for a piece of broccoli?

Probably not – but this is what people living in some of the most remote parts of WA are being asked to fork out for fresh produce.

The cost of fruit and vegetables in some of the state’s indigenous communities can be as much as three to four times that of supermarkets in Perth.

It is a cited as one of the reasons for the high rate of chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes and renal failure, in Aboriginal communities.

As Published NEWS LTD

FACTS

Aboriginal people and diabetes

– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the fourth highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the world.

– It is estimated 10-30 per cent of Indigenous Australians may have the condition, but many are undiagnosed.

– Rates are between three and five times higher compared to non-Indigenous people in all age groups over 25 years.

– 39 per cent of the Aboriginal population over the age of 55 has diabetes.

– Deaths from diabetes were seven times more common for Indigenous people than for non-Indigenous people between 2006 and 2010.

– Hospitalisations for kidney complications among Indigenous people are 29 times higher than for other Australians.

Source: Diabetes WA

University of South Australia researcher Kerin O’Dea wants nutritious food to be subsidised and for doctors in remote areas to prescribe food like medicines.

University of SA Professor Kerin O'Dea.

University of SA Professor Kerin O’Dea. Source: News Limited

“I feel strongly that we should as a nation have some kind of way of giving people in remote parts ccess to fresh food at capital city supermarket prices. It wouldn’t cost us much in relative terms,” she said.

“We give a huge diesel fuel rebate to mining companies and yet we don’t invest in the health of people, particularly children.”

She advocates a junk food tax to reduce the cost of fresh food and encouraging more locally produced food.

The idea of subsidising fresh fruit and vegetables was supported by Winthrop Professor Jill Milroy of the Poche Centre for indigenous Health at the University of Western Australia.

“Getting good, healthy food is really important and it needs to be addressed. It probably has to be subsidies because there is a lot of cost factors in getting food up there,” she said.

Department of Health nutrition policy adviser Dr Christina Pollard said the cost of healthy food was up to 29 per cent higher in rural areas compared to capital cities.

Welfare recipients also need to spend 50 per cent of their disposable income to achieve a healthy diet compared with 15 per cent nationally, the author of the Department’s Food Access and Cost Survey said.

“To get the food there, to keep it fresh and of good quality costs a lot more,” the adjunct researcher at Curtin University said.

“Food in general is more expensive, but healthy food is disproportionately expensive, particularly things like fruit and vegetables which need to be transported under refrigeration and don’t have a long shelf life.”

The Ngaanyatjarra Health Service provides health care to 2300 people living in a dozen communities across the Great Victorian and Gibson Deserts of central WA.

Chief executive Brett Cowling said the burden of chronic disease was “huge” and still growing in many remote areas.

But he said the problem was being tackled, and in some cases reversed, by the communities themselves.

At community-owned stores the price of fresh food is being kept low by not applying transport costs and in some areas full-strength soft drinks have been pulled from the shelves.

“Subsidies are  being discussed, and are an option, but I have seen the same results through good community governance and where the community have worked towards that outcome themselves,” he said.

“That always has to be best possible solution.”

Outback Stores was established six years ago to ensure food security in remote communities and today manages 10 community-owned shops in Western Australia.

Chief executive Steve Moore said by keeping the cost of fresh food low consumption of fruit and vegetables was up 13 per cent compared to last year.

The sale of water bottles has also more than doubled since the firm did a deal with Coca-Cola Amatil to sell 600ml bottles of its Mount Franklin water for $1.

“I don’t believe a subsidy or a tax will solve the problem,” he said. “We are making ground, but it’s small steps. It’s time and education  that  will make the difference.

“People are more aware of what they should and shouldn’t consume. Restricting products has never worked because people will just travel to get it.”

Foodbank WA runs breakfast programs in more than 400 schools across the state, providing shelf-stable food and working with communities to make positive health behaviour changes.

As well as getting around the high costs by supplying frozen and tinned produce, Foodbank encourages residents of remote communities to use bushtucker.

“Traditional methods are important and it’s important culturally to keep those going,” Stephanie Godrich, Foodbank WA regional strategy co-ordinator, said.

“We need to acknowledge that Aboriginal people have a lot to offer us.”

Sugar

What is in a 600ml bottle of cola?

65.4 grams of sugar – The equivilant of 16 teaspoons

1044 kilojoules (100 per cent of energy comes from sugar)

How much sugar is in your favourite drink?

600ml Cola

– 16 teaspoons of sugar

600ml Iced Coffee Chill

– 14 teaspoons of sugar

600ml Orange juice

– 16 teaspoons of sugar

600ml Choc Chill

– 13 teaspoons of sugar

600ml Powerade

– 11 teaspoons of sugar

375ml Cola

– 10 teaspoons of sugar

350ml Apple juice

– Nine teaspoons of sugar

375ml Lemonade

– Eight teaspoons of sugar

500ml Lemon Ice Tea

– Eight teaspoons of sugar

250ml Red Bull

– Seven teaspoons of sugar

300ml V8 Juice

– Six teaspoons of sugar

500ml Vitamin Water

– Five teaspoons of sugar

300ml fresh cow’s milk

– Four teaspoons of sugar

Source: Livelighter.com.au