NACCHO Aboriginal Health @KidneyHealth : Download @MenziesResearch Indigenous Australians travelling 1000 kilometres for kidney dialysis: report



” Remote Aboriginal Australians with kidney disease have demanded equitable access to life-saving treatment closer to home to prevent the removal of people from their traditional homelands.

In a new Menzies School of Health Research report, patients and carers from across northern and central Australia called on state, territory and federal government health ministers to overhaul the system to provide more holistic care.”

Download Report Here

Menzies IPV_REPORT_FINAL_09112017

Report lead author Dr Jaquelyne Hughes says the current model meets medical needs, but missed the mark in helping indigenous people feel connected to their country, families and culture.

“We heard, overwhelmingly, of how people felt lonely, distressed and isolated following relocation to access treatment,” Dr Hughes said.

Some patients reported homelessness and desperation because of this disconnect, describing having to stay in the long grass when Darwin hostels are booked out.

A Torres Strait Islander said many sick people are forced to travel up to 1000 kilometres to Cairns and Townsville to receive dialysis.

“And they cry, their tears are running, because they want to go back home, they miss their families, they miss the lifestyle of the islands, because they are islanders,” the patient said.

Many noted the disease can fracture communities as elders become ill and are relocated together with their relatives, who miss out on cultural obligations and suffer disruptions to education and employment.

“We want them (the elders) to stay in communities. They are the old people; they have to hold country and family together for us,” one patient said.

“Families living in Darwin (for dialysis) are missing out on ceremonies, funerals and other important stuff,” another person said.

Dr Hughes said the only type of care available to most indigenous renal failure sufferers was designed by and for people in cities at the expense of those in the bush.

MENZIES Press Release

Indigenous people with kidney disease living in remote and rural Australia as well as their support networks have made a resounding call for equitable health care closer to home in a report released today by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies).

In the ‘Indigenous Patient Voices: Gathering Perspectives, Finding Solutions for Chronic and End-Stage Kidney Disease’ 2017 symposium report, renal patients and carers from across northern and central Australia highlighted the need for more holistic care and services to be made available closer to home.

Report lead author Dr Jaquelyne Hughes said current health care systems met medical care needs, but missed the mark in helping Indigenous people feel connected to their country, communities and culture while they received treatment.

“We heard, overwhelmingly, of how people felt lonely, distressed and isolated following relocation to access treatment,” Dr Hughes said.

“Some patients reported homelessness and desperation because of this disconnect. They are not rejecting the desire to live well; they are rejecting the only model of care available to them.

“The care available to kidney patients was designed by and for people who live close to cities. This automatically excludes people who live further away and in the bush.”

The report follows the Indigenous Patient Voices Symposium held during September in Darwin in conjunction with the 53rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Nephrology (ANZSN).

Dr Hughes is one of many health practitioners urging the Australian state, territory and federal government health ministers to respond to this call to action.

“Consumer engagement is a national priority of Australian health services, and the symposium showed many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are willing to provide feedback to support the necessary health care transformation,” she said.

“We’ve highlighted the patient-reported barriers to accessing quality services for chronic and end-stage kidney disease, how and where services are delivered, how information is communicated and developing pathways and career opportunities for Indigenous Australians within the renal health care workforce.”

The report is available via the Menzies website at

The Indigenous Patients’ Voices Symposium was supported by Kidney Health Australia, Astellas Pharma Australia and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Australia.




NACCHO Aboriginal Health #KHW17 #Kidneysfirst :Ten bad food habits that will kill you

 ‘ Almost half of heart-related deaths are caused by 10 bad ­eating habits.

Diets high in salt or sugary drinks are responsible for ­thousands of deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 ­diabetes, according to a study. Scientists also blamed a lack of fruit and vegetables and high ­levels of ­processed meats.

Researchers looked at all 702,308 deaths from heart ­disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 and found that 45 per cent were linked with “suboptimal consumption” of 10 types of nutrients. They mapped data on dietary habits from population surveys, along with estimates from previous research of links between foods and disease, on to data about the deaths to come up with the figures.”

Originally published in The Australian

This is our last NACCHO post supporting Kidney Health Week / Day

Further NACCHO reading

Sugar Tax     Obesity     Diabetes    Nutrition/Healthy Foods

The highest proportion of deaths, at 9.5 per cent, was linked with eating too much salt, while a low intake of nuts and seeds was linked with 8.5 per cent.

Eating processed meats was linked with 8.2 per cent of deaths and a low amount of seafood omega-3 fats with 7.8 per cent. Low intake of vegetables ­accounted for 7.6 per cent and low intake of fruit 7.5 per cent.

Sugary drinks were linked with 7.4 per cent, a low intake of whole grains with 5.9 per cent, low polyunsaturated fats with 2.3 per cent and high unprocessed red meats with 0.4 per cent.

The research, published in the journal JAMA, also found men’s deaths were more likely to have links to poor diet than women’s.

Key Points

Question  What is the estimated mortality due to heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes (cardiometabolic deaths) associated with suboptimal intakes of 10 dietary factors in the United States?

Findings  In 2012, suboptimal intake of dietary factors was associated with an estimated 318 656 cardiometabolic deaths, representing 45.4% of cardiometabolic deaths. The highest proportions of cardiometabolic deaths were estimated to be related to excess sodium intake, insufficient intake of nuts/seeds, high intake of processed meats, and low intake of seafood omega-3 fats.

Meaning  Suboptimal intake of specific foods and nutrients was associated with a substantial proportion of deaths due to heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.


Importance  In the United States, national associations of individual dietary factors with specific cardiometabolic diseases are not well established.

Objective  To estimate associations of intake of 10 specific dietary factors with mortality due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (cardiometabolic mortality) among US adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A comparative risk assessment model incorporated data and corresponding uncertainty on population demographics and dietary habits from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1999-2002: n = 8104; 2009-2012: n = 8516); estimated associations of diet and disease from meta-analyses of prospective studies and clinical trials with validity analyses to assess potential bias; and estimated disease-specific national mortality from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Exposures  Consumption of 10 foods/nutrients associated with cardiometabolic diseases: fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), polyunsaturated fats, seafood omega-3 fats, and sodium.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Estimated absolute and percentage mortality due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in 2012. Disease-specific and demographic-specific (age, sex, race, and education) mortality and trends between 2002 and 2012 were also evaluated.

Results  In 2012, 702 308 cardiometabolic deaths occurred in US adults, including 506 100 from heart disease (371 266 coronary heart disease, 35 019 hypertensive heart disease, and 99 815 other cardiovascular disease), 128 294 from stroke (16 125 ischemic, 32 591 hemorrhagic, and 79 578 other), and 67 914 from type 2 diabetes.

See for full text

The authors, from Cambridge University and two US institutions, said that their results should help to “identify priorities, guide public health planning and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health”.

In an editorial, Noel Mueller and Lawrence Appel, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “Policies that affect diet quality, not just quantity, are needed … There is some precedence, such as from trials of the Mediterranean diet plus supplemental foods, that modification of diet can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by 30 per cent to 70 per cent.”

Keeping your kidneys healthy

It is important to maintain a healthy weight for your height. The food you eat, and how active you are, help to control your weight.

Healthy eating tips include:

  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrain bread and rice.
  • At least once a week eat some lean meat such as chicken and fish.
  • Look at the food label and try to choose foods that have a low percentage of sugar and salt and saturated fats.
  • Limit take-away and fast food meals.

Exercise regularly

It’s recommended that you do at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week  – exercise leads to increased strength, stamina and energy.

The key is to start slowly and gradually increase the time and intensity of the exercise. You can break down any physical activity into three ten-minute bursts, which can be increased as your fitness improves

Drink plenty of fluids and listen to your thirst.

If you are thirsty, make water your first choice. Water has a huge list of health benefits and contains no kilojoules, is inexpensive and readily available.

Sugary soft drinks are packed full of ‘empty kilojoules’, which means they contain a lot of sugar but have no nutritional value.

Some fruit juices are high in sugar and do not contain the fibre that the whole fruit has.

The role of the kidneys is often underrated when we think about our health.

In fact, the kidneys play a vital role in the daily workings of your body. They are so important that nature gave us two kidneys, to cover the possibility that one might be lost to an injury.

We can live quite well with only one kidney and some people live a healthy life even though born with one missing. However, with no kidney function death occurs within a few days!

The kidneys play a major role in maintaining your general health and wellbeing. Think of them as a very complex, environmentally friendly, waste disposal system. They sort non-recyclable waste from recyclable waste, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while also cleaning your blood.

Most people are born with two kidneys, each one about the size of an adult fist, bean-shaped and weighing around 150 grams each. The kidneys are located at both sides of your backbone, just under the rib cage or above the small of your back. They are protected from injury by a large padding of fat, your lower ribs and several muscles.

Your blood supply circulates through the kidneys about 12 times every hour. Each day your kidneys process around 200 litres of blood. The kidneys make urine (wee) from excess fluid and unwanted chemicals or waste in your blood.

Urine flows down through narrow tubes called ureters to the bladder where it is stored. When you feel the need to wee, the urine passes out of your body through a tube called the urethra. Around one to two litres of waste leave your body each day as urine.

Resource Library

Kidneys are the unsung heroes of our bodies and perform a number of very important jobs:

  • Blood pressure control – kidneys keep your blood pressure regular.
  • Water balance – kidneys add excess water to other wastes, which makes your urine.
  • Cleaning blood – kidneys filter your blood to remove wastes and toxins.
  • Vitamin D activation – kidneys manage your body’s production of this essential vitamin, which is vital for strong bones, muscles and overall health.

All this makes the kidneys a very important player in the way your body works and your overall health.

Aboriginal Health Events / Workshops #SaveADate : #NDIS ,#Disability #Leadership, #Rural, #Kidneys , #RHD, #Ears


February – May   : NEW : Get NDIS Ready with a Roadshow NSW Launched

2 March  : Disability research within Aboriginal communities : Alice Springs

3 March: AMSANT: APONT Innovating to Succeed Forum – Alice Springs

3 March : The National Indigenous Youth Parliament (NIYP) applications close

5 March: Kidney Health Week Starts

14 March : Western Sydney : Aboriginal Health Services Community Forum –  Rooty Hill NSW

16 March: National Close the Gap Day

16 March Close the Gap Day VISION 2020

22 March: 2017 Indigenous Ear Health Workshop  Adelaide

29 March: RHD Australia Education Workshop Adelaide SA

26- 29 April The 14 th National Rural Health Conference Cairns

29 April:14th World Rural Health Conference Cairns

10 May: National Indigenous Human Rights Awards

26 May :National Sorry day 2017


If you have a Conference, Workshop or event and wish to share and promote contact

Colin Cowell NACCHO Media Mobile 0401 331 251

Send to NACCHO Media


February – May   : Get NDIS Ready with a Roadshow NSW Launched


The Every Australian Counts team will be hitting the road from March – May presenting NDIS information forums in the NSW regional areas where the NDIS will be rolling out from July.

We’ll be covering topics including:

  • What the NDIS is, why we need it and what it means for you
  • The changes that the NDIS brings and how they will benefit you
  • How to access the NDIS and get the most out of it

These free forums are designed for people with disability, their families and carers, people working in the disability sector and anyone else interested in all things NDIS.

Please register for tickets and notify the team about any access requirements you need assistance with. All the venues are wheelchair accessible and Auslan interpreters can be available if required. Please specify any special requests at the time of booking.

Find the team in the following locations: 

Click on a link above to register online now! 

Every Australian Counts is the campaign that brought about the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Now it is a reality, the team are focused on engaging and educating the disability sector and wider Australian community about the benefits of the NDIS and the options and possibilities that it brings.

 2 March  : Disability research within Aboriginal communities : Alice Springs

Dr John Gilroy, a Koori man from the Yuin Nation of the the South Coast of New South Wales, will be presenting a seminar on disability research in Aboriginal communities in the Rubuntja Building, at the Alice Springs Hospital, Northern Territory (NT), on Thursday 2 March 2017 from 12pm – 1pm.

John, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney (USYD) and a member of the Poche research family will present his journey from being a client of disability services to becoming one of the leading scholars in disability research within Aboriginal communities. His discussion will touch on disability research and scholarship undertaken with Aboriginal people and its implications for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including the current disability research projects underway with the Anangu of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) lands

There are limited seats and registration is required, so book by email using contact below.


Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Well-being
Ph: (08) 8951 9601

3 March : The National Indigenous Youth Parliament (NIYP) applications close


Is your chance to come to Canberra, meet Australia’s leaders, learn about democracy and have your say on important issues. Fifty young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people will be selected, six from each state and territory and two from the Torres Strait, to come to Canberra for the week-long program

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 to 25 years who are willing to stand up and speak about important issues, work as part of a team, travel to new places, meet new people and learn.

How do I apply?

Complete and submit the online application form below. Applications close Friday 3 March 2017.

Please contact us if you do not receive an email confirmation of your application within 3 days. The AEC accepts no responsibility for lost, damaged or late applications.

All information you provide in your application is managed and stored appropriately in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.

Letter of support

All applications must include a letter of support from your teacher or tutor, employer, coach, youth worker, community leader, family friend or other referee. The letter of support should support the claims made in your application and explain why you are suitable for the NIYP.

Tips for completing this form

  • Write your answers on a document saved to your computer first in case your connection is lost.
  • Have a scanned copy of your letter of support ready to upload with your application.
  • Contact us if you don’t receive an email confirmation within 3 days of submitting this form to make sure we received it.
Apply online now

3 March: AMSANT: APONT Innovating to Succeed Forum – Alice Springs


Following our successful 2015 AGMP Forum we are pleased to announce the second AGMP Forum will be held at the Alice Springs Convention Centre on 3 March from 9 am to 5 pm. The forum is a free catered event open to senior managers and board members of all Aboriginal organisations across the NT.

Download the Program


Come along to hear from NT Aboriginal organisations about innovative approaches to strengthen your activities and businesses, be more sustainable and self-determine your success. The forum will be opened by the Chief Minister and there will be opportunities for Q&A discussions with Commonwealth and Northern Territory government representatives.

To register to attend please complete the online registration form, or contact Wes Miller on 8944 6626, Kate Muir on 8959 4623, or email

5 March: Kidney Health week


is nearly here! Learn how you can get involved this 5-11 March, and order your free event pack:

14 March : Western Sydney : Aboriginal Health Services Community Forum –  Rooty Hill NSW

WACHS invites Aboriginal community representatives from Western Sydney and the Nepean Blue Mountains region to meet to discuss future directions for Aboriginal health.

Topics will include:

  • Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS)
    – History and background
    – Service support
    – Service programs
  • Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains Project: Service Delivery
    – Funding agreement
    – Structure and staffing
    – Financial and risk management
  • Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains Project: Service Support
    – Community engagement and consultation
    – Infrastructure
    – Identity and recognition

pdfDownload flyer

More information: Anthony Carter,

Forum transport registration: Rita McKenzie,


Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service
Aboriginal Health Services Community Forum
14 March 2017, 10.00am–1.00pm
Novotel Hotel, 33 Railway St, Rooty Hill

Cost: Free

16 March Close the Gap Day


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples die 10-17 years younger than other Australians and it’s even worse in some parts of Australia. Register now and hold an activity of your choice in support of health equality across Australia.


Resource packs will be sent out from 1 February 2017.

We will also have a range of free downloadable resources available on our website

It is still important to register as this contributes to the overall success of the event.

More information and Register your event

16 March Close the Gap Day VISION 2020


Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne would like to invite people to a two-day national conference on Indigenous eye health and the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision in March 2017. The conference will provide opportunity for discussion and planning for what needs to be done to Close the Gap for Vision by 2020 and is supported by their partners National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Optometry Australia, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Vision 2020 Australia.

Collectively, significant progress has been made to improve Indigenous eye health particularly over the past five years and this is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made. The recent National Eye Health Survey found the gap for blindness has been reduced but is still three times higher. The conference will allow people to share the learning from these experiences and plan future activities.

The conference is designed for those working in all aspects of Indigenous eye care: from health workers and practitioners, to regional and jurisdictional organisations. It will include ACCHOs, NGOs, professional bodies and government departments.

The topics to be discussed will include:

  • regional approaches to eye care
  • planning and performance monitoring
  • initiatives and system reforms that address vision loss
  • health promotion and education.


Indigenous Eye Health – Minum Barreng
Level 5, 207-221 Bouverie Street
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
The University of Melbourne
Carlton Vic 3010
Ph: (03) 8344 9320


22 March2017 Indigenous Ear Health Workshop  in Adelaide


The 2017 Indigenous Ear Health Workshop to be held in Adelaide in March will focus on Otitis Media (middle ear disease), hearing loss, and its significant impact on the lives of Indigenous children, the community and Indigenous culture in Australia.

The workshop will take place on 22 March 2017 at the Adelaide Convention Centre in Adelaide, South Australia.

The program features keynote addresses by invited speakers who will give presentations aligned with the workshop’s main objectives:

  • To identify and promote methods to strengthen primary prevention and care of Otitis Media (OM).
  • To engage and coordinate all stakeholders in OM management.
  • To summarise current and future research into OM pathogenesis (the manner in which it develops) and management.
  • To present the case for consistent and integrated funding for OM management.

Invited speakers will include paediatricians, public health physicians, ear nose and throat surgeons, Aboriginal health workers, Education Department and a psychologist, with OM and hearing updates from medical, audiological and medical science researchers.

The program will culminate in an address emphasising the need for funding that will provide a consistent and coordinated nationwide approach to managing Indigenous ear health in Australia.

Those interested in attending may include: ENT surgeons, ENT nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, audiologists, rural and regional general surgeons and general practitioners, speech pathologists, teachers, researchers, state and federal government representatives and bureaucrats; in fact anyone interested in Otitis Media.

The workshop is organised by the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (ASOHNS) and is held just before its Annual Scientific Meeting (23 -26 March 2017). The first IEH workshop was held in Adelaide in 2012 and subsequent workshops were held in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.

For more information go to the ASOHNS 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting Pre-Meeting Workshops section at

Or contact:

Mrs Lorna Watson, Chief Executive Officer, ASOHNS Ltd

T: +61 2 9954 5856   or  E

29 March: RHDAustralia Education Workshop Adelaide SA


Download the PDF brochure sa-workshop-flyer

More information and registrations HERE

26- 29 April The 14 th National Rural Health Conference Cairns c42bfukvcaam3h9

INFO Register

29 April : 14th World Rural Health Conference Cairns


The conference program features streams based on themes most relevant to all rural and remote health practitioners. These include Social and environmental determinants of health; Leadership, Education and Workforce; Social Accountability and Social Capital, and Rural Clinical Practices: people and services.

Download the program here : rural-health-conference-program-no-spreads

The program includes plenary/keynote sessions, concurrent sessions and poster presentations. The program will also include clinical sessions to provide skill development and ongoing professional development opportunities :

Information Registrations HERE

10 May: National Indigenous Human Rights Awards


” The National Indigenous Human Rights Awards recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who have made significant contribution to the advancement of human rights and social justice for their people.”

To nominate someone for one of the three awards, please go to
For further information, please also check out the Awards Guide at
26 May :National Sorry day 2017
The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 – one year after the tabling of the report Bringing them Home, May 1997. The report was the result of an inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission into the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

The importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will be the focus of national celebrations marking NAIDOC Week 2017.

The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

More info about events


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Chronic Disease #prevention



 ” The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance recommends that the Australian Government introduce a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages, as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing overweight and obesity, and with revenue supporting public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.

A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages should not be viewed as the single solution to the obesity epidemic in Australia.

Rather, it should be one component of a comprehensive approach, including restrictions on children’s exposure to marketing of these products, restrictions on their sale in schools, other children’s settings and public institutions, and effective public education campaigns[42].

Health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages

ACDPA Position Statement

Key messages

  •  The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) recommends that the Australian Government introduce a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages (sugary drinks)i, as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing overweight and obesity.
  •  Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. Obesity is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and certain cancers.
  •  Beverages are the largest source of free sugars in the Australian diet. One in two Australians usually exceed the World Health Organization recommendation to limit free sugars to 10% of daily intake (equivalent to 12 teaspoons of sugar).
  •  Young Australians are the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and socially disadvantaged groups.
  •  Young people, low-income consumers and those most at risk of obesity are most responsive to food and beverage price changes, and are likely to gain the largest health benefit from a levy on sugary drinks due to reduced consumption.
  •  A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia is estimated to reduce consumption and potentially prevent thousands of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke over 25 years. The levy could generate revenue of $400-$500 million each year, which could support public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.
  •  A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages should not be viewed as the single solution to the obesity epidemic in Australia. Rather, it should be one component of a comprehensive approach, including restrictions on children’s exposure to marketing of these products, restrictions on their sale in schools, other children’s settings and public institutions, and effective public education campaigns.

i ‘Sugar-sweetened beverages’ and sugary drinks are used interchangeably in this paper. This refers to all non-alcoholic water based beverages with added sugar, including sugar-sweetened soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters, fortified waters, energy and electrolyte drinks, fruit and vegetable drinks, and cordials. This term does not include milk-based products, 100% fruit juice or non-sugar sweetened beverages (i.e. artificial, non-nutritive or intensely sweetened). 2


The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) brings together five leading non-government health organisations with a commitment to reducing the growing incidence of chronic disease in Australia attributable to overweight and obesity, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. ACDPA members are: Cancer Council Australia; Diabetes Australia; Kidney Health Australia; National Heart Foundation of Australia; and the Stroke Foundation.

This position statement is one of a suite of ACDPA statements, which provide evidence-based information and recommendations to address modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. ACDPA position statements are designed to inform policy and are intended for government, non-government organisations, health professionals and the community.

Chronic disease

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in Australia, accounting for around 90% of all deaths in 2011[1]. One in two Australians (i.e. more than 11 million) had a chronic disease in 2014-15 and almost one quarter of the population had at least two conditions[2].

However, much chronic disease is actually preventable. Around one third of total disease burden could be prevented by reducing modifiable risk factors, including overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and poor diet[2].

Overweight and obesity

Overweight and obesity is the second greatest contributor to disease burden and increases risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and some cancers[2].

The rates of overweight and obesity are continuing to increase. Almost two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese and one in four Australian children are already overweight or obese[2]. Children who are overweight are also more likely to grow up to become overweight or obese adults, with an increased risk of chronic disease and premature mortality[3].

The cost of obesity in Australia was estimated to be $8.6 billion in 2011-12, comprising $3.8 billion in direct costs and $4.8 billion in indirect costs[4]. If no further action is taken to slow obesity rates in Australia, the cost of obesity over the next 10 years to 2025 is estimated to total $87.7 billion[4].

Free sugars and weight gain

There is increasing evidence that high intake of free sugarsii is associated with weight gain due to excess energy intake and dental caries[5]. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends reducing free sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake (equivalent to around 12 teaspoons of sugar), or to 5% for the greatest health benefits[5].

ii ‘Free sugars’ refer to sugars added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

In 2011-12, more than half of Australians usually exceeded the recommendation to limit free sugar intake to 10%[6]. There was wide variation in the amounts of free sugars consumed, with older children and teenagers most likely to exceed the recommendation and adults aged 51-70 least likely to exceed the recommendation[6]. On average, Australians consumed around 60 grams of free sugars each day (around 14 teaspoons)[6]. Children and young people were the highest consumers, with adolescent males and females consuming the equivalent of 22 and 17 teaspoons of sugar each day respectively [6].

Beverages contribute more than half of free sugar intake in the Australian diet[6]. In 2011-12, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks accounted for 19% of free sugar intake, fruit juices and fruit drinks contributed 13%, and cordial accounted for 4.9%[6]. 3

Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

In particular, sugar-sweetened beverages are mostly energy-dense but nutrient-poor. Sugary drinks appear to increase total energy intake due to reduced satiety, as people do not compensate for the additional energy consumed by reducing their intake of other foods or drinks[3, 7]. Sugar-sweetened beverages may also negatively affect taste preferences, especially amongst children, as less sweet foods may become less palatable[8].

Sugar-sweetened beverages are consumed by large numbers of Australian adults and children[9], and Australia ranks 15th in the world for sales of caloric beverages per person per day[10].

One third of Australians consumed sugar-sweetened beverages on the day before the Australian Health Survey interview in 2011-12[9]. Of those consuming sweetened beverages, the equivalent of a can of soft drink was consumed (375 mL)[9]. Children and adolescents were more likely to have consumed sugary drinks than adults (47% compared with 31%), and consumption peaked at 55% amongst adolescents[9]. Males were more likely than females to have consumed sugary drinks (39% compared with 29%)[9].

Australians living in areas with the highest levels of socioeconomic disadvantage were more likely to have consumed sugary drinks than those in areas of least disadvantage (38% compared with 31%)[9]. Half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed sugary drinks compared to 34% of non-Indigenous people[9]. Amongst those consuming sweetened beverages, a greater amount was consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders than for non-Indigenous people (455 mL compared with 375 mL)[9]. 4

The health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

WHO and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommend restricting or avoiding intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, based on evidence that high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages may increase risk of weight gain and obesity[7, 11]. As outlined earlier, obesity is an established risk factor for a range of chronic diseases[2].

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, based on evidence of a probable association between sugary drink consumption and increased risk of weight gain in adults and children, and a suggestive association between soft drink consumption and an increased risk of reduced bone strength, and dental caries in children[3].

Type 2 diabetes

Sugar-sweetened drinks may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes[3]. Evidence indicates a significant relationship between the amount and frequency of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed and increased risk of type 2 diabetes[12, 13]. The risk of type 2 diabetes is estimated to be 26% greater amongst the highest consumers (1 to 2 servings/day) compared to lowest consumers (<1 serving/month)[13].

Cardiovascular disease and stroke

The consumption of added sugar by adolescents, especially sugar-sweetened soft drinks, has been associated with multiple factors that can increase risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of body size, and increased insulin resistance among overweight or obese adolescents[14].

A high sugar diet has been linked to increased risk of heart disease mortality[15, 16]. Consuming high levels of added sugar is associated with risk factors for heart disease such as weight gain and raised blood pressure[17]. Excessive dietary glucose and fructose have been shown to increase the production and accumulation of fatty cells in the liver and bloodstream, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, and kidney and liver disease[18]. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the major causes of chronic liver disease and is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease[18].

There is also emerging evidence that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may be independently associated with increased risk of stoke[19].

Chronic kidney disease

There is evidence of an independent association between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and the development of chronic kidney disease and kidney stone formation[20]. The risk of developing chronic kidney disease is 58% greater amongst people who regularly consume at least one sugar-sweetened soft drink per day, compared with non-consumers[21].


While sugar-sweetened beverages may contribute to cancer risk through their effect on overweight and obesity, there is no evidence to suggest that these drinks are an independent risk factor for cancer[7]. 5

A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages

WHO recommends that governments consider taxes and subsidies to discourage consumption of less healthy foods and promote healthier options[22]. WHO concludes that there is “reasonable and increasing evidence that appropriately designed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages would result in proportional reductions in consumption, especially if aimed at raising the retail price by 20% or more”[23].

Price influences consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages[24, 25]. Young people, low-income consumers and those most at risk of obesity are most responsive to food and beverage price changes, and are likely to gain the largest health benefit from a levy on sugary drinks due to reduced consumption[23]. While a health levy would result in lower income households paying a greater proportion of their income in additional tax, the financial burden across all households is small, with minimal differences between higher- and lower-income households (less than $5 USD per year)[26].

A 2016 study modelled the impact of a 20% ad valorem excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia over 25 years[27]. The levy could reduce sugary drink consumption by 12.6% and reduce obesity by 2.7% in men and 1.2% in women[27]. Over 25 years, there could be 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of ischaemic heart disease and 1,100 fewer strokes[27]. In total, 1,600 deaths could potentially be prevented[27].

The 20% levy was modelled to generate more than $400 million in revenue each year, even with a decline in consumption, and save $609 million in overall health care expenditure over 25 years[27]. The implementation cost was estimated to be $27.6 million[27].

A separate Australian report is supportive of an excise tax on the sugar content of sugar-sweetened beverages, to reduce consumption and encourage manufacturers to reformulate to reduce the sugar content in beverages[28]. An excise tax at a rate of 40 cents per 100 grams was modelled to reduce consumption by 15% and generate around $500 million annually in revenue[28]. While a sugary drinks levy is not the single solution to obesity, the introduction of a levy could promote healthier eating, reduce obesity and raise revenue to combat costs that obesity imposes on the broader community.

There is public support for a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages. Sixty nine percent of Australian grocery buyers supported a levy if the revenue was used to reduce the cost of healthy foods[29]. A separate survey of 1,200 people found that 85% supported levy revenue being used to fund programs reducing childhood obesity, and 84% supported funding for initiatives encouraging children’s sport[30].

An Australian levy on sugar-sweetened beverages is supported by many public health groups and professional organisations.