Country kids face food challenges

One in five children in regional and remote WA worry about getting enough food to eat according to a new study from Edith Cowan University.

Researchers surveyed more than 200 children from around the State to measure their food insecurity, which is defined as reduced or restricted access to sufficient, safe nutritious and appropriate food.

The paper, ‘Prevalence and socio-demographic predictors of food insecurity among regional and remote Western Australian children’ was published today (Wednesday, 13th September 2017) in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Going without

Of the children surveyed, 21.2 per cent reported worrying that the food at home would run out before their family got money to buy more.

Almost one in ten reported having to eat less because their family didn’t have enough money to buy food and 14 per cent said their meals only contain cheap low quality food.

Australian first

Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Godrich from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences said the research was the first in Australia to measure food insecurity as reported by children.

“Previous Australian studies looking at food insecurity have surveyed parents or caregivers rather than their children,” she said.

“Caregivers have reported feeling ashamed of their inability to feed their family which may have resulted in an underreporting of food insecurity in previous studies.

“By gathering this data directly from children we have been able to create a clearer picture of the problem of food insecurity in regional and remote WA.”

Uneven spread

Dr Godrich said the research revealed an interesting link between food insecurity and economic disadvantage.

“While we may expect the problem to be greatest in the most disadvantaged areas, we actually found that it was children living in areas of medium socioeconomic status (SES) that were more likely to be food insecure,” she said.

“This suggests that some of the families in these medium SES areas may not be eligible for the types of financial assistance or may believe that they do not need it.

“What this tells us is that this is a systemic problem in regional and remote WA and we need government action to address it.”

Lasting solutions

Dr Godrich said action is urgently needed to address the situation because food insecurity during childhood can result in poor health outcomes later in life.

“Ensuring an adequate social safety net is important. Additionally, creating local employment opportunities in regional and remote areas can increase the financial security for families.

“Local Governments across WA will be developing new Public Health Plans. We would like to see strategies included to improve access to affordable, nutritious food options for all families.

“Finally, we need ongoing, accurate measurement of the issue in Australia that also investigates the impact of food insecurity on health outcomes.”

This research was supported by a grant from the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway).
Read more at https://www.fatcow.com.au/articles/news/country-kids-face-food-challenges-n2529068#57cbTOC6ic1OYsTM.99

Bribing kids to eat vegetables is not sustainable – here’s what to do instead

How can you get a fussy child to eat vegetables? It’s a question that plagues many frustrated parents at countless mealtimes. Some take to hiding morsels in more delicious parts of meals, while others adopt a stricter approach, refusing to let little ones leave the table until plates are clear.

One “alternative” idea touted recently is for parents to essentially bribe their children, depositing money into a child’s bank account as a reward when they eat vegetables – an idea actually backed up by research.

A US study in 2016 showed that the technique continued to encourage primary school age children to eat their greens for up to two months after these incentives were stopped. Children who were incentivised for a longer period of time were more likely to continue eating vegetables after the deposits ended too.

The core idea here is that, providing children have the cognitive ability to understand the exchange, they will learn to eat healthily as well as learn the value of money. After a while, they will continue eating the food, not because of the reward, but because they will get into the habit of eating healthy.

But one study is really not enough to draw conclusions and suggest action – especially as there was not a control group to compare money with other types of incentives, or no incentive at all.

And monetary incentives can actually decrease our motivation to perform the activity we are paid for, and eventually we lose interest. So, even if bribing kids with cash to eat their greens works at first, it is not sustainable in the long term.

Non-monetary rewards aren’t much better either. The phrase: “You can have dessert as long as you eat your sprouts”, will ring a bell for most people. This, though said with the best intentions, may increase the intake of the target food in the short term, but can convey the wrong message to its receipents: “This food must be really bad if I am getting something for eating it!”. It not only places dessert as a food of high value – a trophy that is earned – but also teaches kids to dislike the target food.

A familiar sight for many parents.
www.shutterstock.com/Oksana Kuzmina

Better methods

So what can you do instead? First and foremost, start early. Formation of food preferences start in the womb, and the first months of life are crucial in developing eating habits. The older children get, the more exposures they need to a novel vegetable in order to consume it. Which brings us neatly to the next point.

Vegetables must be offered frequently, without pressure – and you mustn’t get discouraged by the inevitable “no”. Even if you have missed the first window of opportunity, all is not lost. Parents can lose hope after offering the same vegetables between three and five times, but, in reality, toddlers in particular might need up to 15 exposures.

You also need to let your children experience the food with all of their senses – so don’t “hide” vegetables. Yes, sneaking a nutritious veggie into a fussy eater’s food might be one way to get them to eat it, but if the child doesn’t know a cake has courgettes in it, they will never eat courgettes on their own. It can also backfire if children can lose their trust in food when they realise they have been deceived.

Likewise, don’t draw unnecessary attention to specific foods that you might think your child is not going to like. Sometimes our own dislikes get in the way, and create the expectation that our child is not going to like it either. Our food preferences are formed through previous experiences, which children don’t have. Praising and bribing are commonly used, especially when we don’t expect children to like the food offered, but it can be counterproductive. Instead, serve food in a positive environment but keep your reactions neutral.

This isn’t just about what is on the plate, it’s about a relationship with food. So if your children are old enough, let them help in the kitchen. It can be very messy and time consuming, but it is an excellent way to create a positive atmosphere around food.

It is also important to have frequent family meals and consume vegetables yourself. It’s been shown that children who eat with family do eat more vegetables. Kids often copy adult behaviours, so set a good example by routinely serving and consuming vegetables.

There is sadly no single answer as to what will work for your children, and it might be a case of trial and error. But these actions can create positive associations with all kinds of foods, and you can help your kids lead healthier lives – saving yourself a bit of cash while you’re at it.

The Conversation

Sophia Komninou, Lecturer in Infant and Child Public Health, Swansea University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mavella Superfoods

Mavella is a range of powders intended to help parents provide their children with essential nutrients. Suitable for fussy eaters, each product in the range has a different functional purpose for growing children.

Manufacturer: Koala Karma

Launch date: June 2016

Ingredients:  

  • Mavella Immune Boost contains nine berries (raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, elderberry, blackcurrants, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries and acai). These are in a concentrated form and are known to be high in antioxidants, with the added benefit of prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins and organic natural plant proteins. Australian Health Star Rating: 4.5 star
  • Mavella Brain Boost ingredients contain Omega-3, such as flaxseed and chia. It also contains a combination of two organic plant proteins that together create an all-round amino acid profile. Also included is the organic Peruvian superfood Cacao which gives a chocolate taste. Blueberry and kale have also been added. Plus there’s prebiotics, vitamins and Calcium. Australian Health Star Rating: 5 star
  • Mavella Body Boost contains organic natural plant proteins, real fruit powders, vitamins and minerals. Five fruits plus added vitamins A, B’s, C, D3, Calcium, Iron. Australian Health Star Rating: – 4.5 star
  • Mavella Veggie Boost contains veggies (8 Vegetables and 5 Superfoods – Queensland grown sweet potato, beetroot, spinach, broccoli, kale, carrot, cauliflower and pumpkin. Plus barley and wheatgrass, spirulina, alfalfa, chia) that growing kids need. Australian Health Star Rating: – 5 star

Shelf Life: 18 months

Packaging: 100g Kraft Pouch

Country of origin: Australia

Website: www.mavella.com.au

Home-cooked meals not always better for babies and young children

Home cooked meals specifically designed for infants and young children, are not always better than commercially available baby foods, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Often perceived as the best option, home cooked meals are usually cheaper–unless organic ingredients are used–but they usually exceed energy density and dietary fat recommendations, the findings indicate.

It’s recommended that the introduction of solid foods, known as weaning, begins when a child is 6 months old. It should include a variety of foods to provide a balanced diet rich in a broad range of nutrients.

The researchers wanted to assess how well homemade and commercially available readymade meals designed for infants and young children met age specific national dietary recommendations.

They therefore compared the nutrient content, price, and food group variety of 278 readymade savoury meals, 174 of which were organic, and 408 home cooked meals, made using recipes from 55 bestselling cookbooks designed for the diets of infants and young children.

The pre-prepared meals were all available from major UK supermarkets, a leading pharmacy chain, and a major health and beauty chain.

In terms of the food group content, 16% of the home cooked meals were poultry based compared with 27% of the readymade meals; around one in five (19%) were seafood based vs 7% of the readymade meals; a similar proportion (21%) were meat based compared with 35% of the commercial products; and almost half (44%) were vegetable based compared with around a third (31%) of the readymade meals.

Home cooked meals included a greater variety of vegetables (33) than readymade meals (22), but commercial products contained a greater vegetable variety per meal, averaging 3 compared with 2 for home cooked recipes.

Home cooked meals also provided 26% more energy and 44% more protein and total fat, including saturated fat, than commercial products.

And while almost two thirds (65%) of commercial products met dietary recommendations on energy density, only just over a third of home cooked meals did so, and over half (52%) exceeded the maximum range.

But home cooked meals were around half the price of commercially available readymade meals: £0.33/100 g compared with £0.68/100 g, excluding fuel costs.

“Unlike adult recommendations, which encourage reducing energy density and fats, it is important in infants that food is suitably energy dense in appropriately sized meals to aid growth and development,” the researchers point out.

But they caution: “Dietary fats contribute essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins together with energy and sensory qualities, thus are vital for the growing child, however excessive intakes may impact on childhood obesity and health.”

The researchers highlight that the lower protein content of readymade meals might be due to the higher proportion of early stage meals on the market while predominantly vegetable based meals are recommended for first tastes.

Furthermore, parents may choose to vary the content of recipes, and there are likely to be natural variations in the nutritional content of raw ingredients, thus making direct comparisons harder to make.

Ready meals are a convenient alternative, they say, but suggest that any parent looking to provide their child with a varied diet, should probably not rely solely on this source.
However, they point out: “the high proportion of red meat-based meals and recipes and low seafood meals are of concern when dietary recommendations encourage an increase in oil-rich fish consumption and limitation of red and processed meats.”

Health Check: is caffeine actually bad for kids?

A recent article in The Guardian said coffee stunting kids’ growth is just a myth promoted by 19th-century manufacturers of a coffee substitute.

So does this mean the long-thought wisdom that coffee is bad for kids is a lie?

Caffeine and diet

Kids normally need a lot of extra nutrition during their adolescent growth spurt, and you might expect the appetite-suppressing effect of caffeine to result in poorer dietary intake and reduced growth.

However, data from the Penn State Young Women’s Health Study indicated growth in teenage girls did not appear to be affected by their caffeine intake – there was no correlation at all.

The girls with the lowest caffeine intakes did have better diets, though, eating less sugar and more fruit and dairy foods. And this may show what the main problem is with kids and caffeine: its association with factors that affect health in other ways.

Caffeine and tooth decay

American data from nationwide health audits indicate that nearly three-quarters of US children consume caffeine, with the most common source being soft drinks (including energy drinks).

Apart from the caffeine content, these sugary drinks – in fact any carbonated drinks – are high in tooth-damaging acid. Compared to adults, kids are more vulnerable to tooth decay as their saliva is less effective at rinsing the teeth and their tooth enamel is softer.

Children’s teeth are more susceptible to decay.
Arindam Bhattacharya/Flickr, CC BY

Calories

Another problem is that caffeine-containing soft drinks, iced tea products and Starbucks-style cream-laden coffee drinks are a concentrated source of extra calories in the diet, and their liquid form means our bodies aren’t good at judging when we have had enough.

This makes them a poor choice of drink if there is concern about risk of obesity, and the addictive caffeine in them can make it a harder habit to break.

Sleeping patterns

But what about a weak milky cup of coffee, tea or cocoa, without sugar? While these don’t pose the same nutritional problems, the caffeine might still have an impact on kids’ health by affecting their sleep patterns.

Kids need a lot of sleep. The Australian Sleep Health Foundation recommends up to 11 hours per night for children, or eight to ten hours for teenagers.

It’s hard for teens to get the amount of sleep they need, because they are naturally “night people”. If normal school and work hours require them to be up by seven or eight in the morning it is then important for them to be asleep by ten – something they will often find difficult. It is even harder if they consume caffeine.

Kids will be more affected by caffeine which might affect their sleep.
Jessica Lucia/Flickr, CC BY

Even an early afternoon coffee could have an effect because it can last in the body for up to eight hours, and kids are affected by much smaller caffeine doses because of their smaller body size.

And just as for adults, caffeine can cause anxiety, nausea and headache, as well as affecting heart rhythm in susceptible people.

In one study in children, even one milligram of caffeine per kilogram of body weight caused significant changes in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as nausea in many of the participants.

An average Australian eight-year-old girl weighs about 25 kilograms, and that dose would be equivalent to a cup of tea or five squares of chocolate, or half a weak cappuccino.

Small amounts

But, as previously pointed out, there are also some well-documented health benefits associated with a low-to-moderate intake of coffee – potentially a reduced risk of dementia, depression, diabetes and cancer.

And caffeine-boosted alertness, concentration and mood can be beneficial for children as well as adults, as long as the dose is low enough to avoid unwanted side-effects and addiction. Just note – for kids, that dose is a lot lower than you might have thought.

The Conversation

Suzie Ferrie, Clinical Affiliate, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Top image: Jack Fussell/Flickr, CC BY-SA

We are feeding our toddlers a risky diet – here’s what we should do about it

 

by PhD candidate UCL.

 

The food and drink young children in the UK are consuming could be putting their health at risk. In a new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we report that toddlers are consuming too much protein and too many calories for their age, putting them at risk of obesity in later life. We also found that they’re consuming too much salt and not enough fibre, vitamin D or iron.

Our study analysed data from one of the largest dietary datasets for toddlers in the UK, collected in 2008-9 from 2,336 children from the Gemini twin birth cohort. The daily calorie intake of toddlers (21 months old) was 7% higher than recommended by public health nutrition guidelines. And protein intake was approximately three times higher than recommended, with almost all toddlers exceeding the recommendation set by the Department of Health.

Not a sure start

The first two years of life are important for developing healthy eating habits. Children begin to develop dietary preferences that shape their eating behaviour and have a lasting impact on health. Our research suggests that there is cause for concern.

The average daily energy intake for toddlers at 21 months was 1,035 calories; higher than the 968 recommended for children aged two years by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. In all, 63% of children exceeded this recommendation. On average, 40g of protein was consumed per day, but just 15g is recommended by the Department of Health for children aged one to three years.

We know that eating too many calories – not matching the energy consumed with the energy expended – leads to weight gain. But finding out how children consume their calories is important. Increased protein in early life is a risk factor for obesity in early life, and obesity often continues into adulthood. Both the high caloric intakes and the higher than recommended protein intakes found in our study suggest that toddlers today may be at increased risk of obesity and associated health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The protein source

A previous study in Gemini found that children who ate higher amounts of protein at 21 months of age, gained more weight up to five years of age. It’s important to identify the sources of protein that may be linked to this risk of weight gain.

In Gemini, almost a quarter of children’s calorie intake was consumed in milk and many of the children (13%) were still drinking formula milk at 21 months of age. This suggests that one of the main dietary sources through which children might be obtaining excess protein, is milk. In fact, within Gemini it was protein consumed from dairy (rather than other animal-based protein or plant-based protein) that was driving increases in weight gain up to age five.

At 21 months of age, the transition from a primarily milk-based diet to family food should have occurred, but it appears that a number of children continue to drink large quantities of milk, high in calories and protein. It’s important that, as children begin to consume family food, milk intake is decreased and replaced with water rather than high-calorie, sugary drinks.

As well as getting too much protein, toddlers were also consuming too much salt. Sodium intake was on average 1,148mg a day, almost three times higher than the 500mg recommended. This is a concern because it may set taste preferences for the future, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure in later life. Most salt in the diet comes from processed foods making it more difficult for people to reduce their salt intake. Parents need to be made aware that many processed foods contain high levels of salt and they may need more guidance on checking food labels, choosing lower salt options and limiting the intake of high-salt foods such as ham and cheese.

Fibre intake among many young children was also low, at just half the recommended amount (8g versus 15g per day). Given that high fibre diets have been associated with reduced risks of cancers, coronary heart disease and obesity, it is important for children to consume sufficient amounts.

Iron and vitamin D intakes were also low. Almost 70% of children did not meet the recommended 6.9 micrograms of iron. And average vitamin D intake was 2.3 micrograms a day, falling far short of the 7 micrograms set by the Department of Health. Less than 7% of children met the recommended vitamin D level, and insufficient intake of vitamin D has been associated with poor health, including rickets.

Many toddler foods are now fortified with vitamin D and iron, but children are still not getting enough. Supplements were taken by a small proportion (7%) of children and, although intakes of vitamin D and iron were increased through supplements, most children were still not meeting the recommendations for vitamin D. This underlines the importance of the government recommendations that all children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D.

Parents need more guidance on the appropriate type, amount and variety of foods and drinks, together with appropriate supplements, in order to reduce obesity and other health problems that may affect their children in later life.

 

This article first appeared on the Conversation. You can read the original here.

 

 

 

 

We are feeding our toddlers a risky diet – here’s what we should do about it

 

by , PhD candidate, UCL

The food and drink young children in the UK are consuming could be putting their health at risk. In a new study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we report that toddlers are consuming too much protein and too many calories for their age, putting them at risk of obesity in later life. We also found that they’re consuming too much salt and not enough fibre, vitamin D or iron.

Our study analysed data from one of the largest dietary datasets for toddlers in the UK, collected in 2008-9 from 2,336 children from the Gemini twin birth cohort. The daily calorie intake of toddlers (21 months old) was 7% higher than recommended by public health nutrition guidelines. And protein intake was approximately three times higher than recommended, with almost all toddlers exceeding the recommendation set by the Department of Health.

Not a sure start

The first two years of life are important for developing healthy eating habits. Children begin to develop dietary preferences that shape their eating behaviour and have a lasting impact on health. Our research suggests that there is cause for concern.

The average daily energy intake for toddlers at 21 months was 1,035 calories; higher than the 968 recommended for children aged two years by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. In all, 63% of children exceeded this recommendation. On average, 40g of protein was consumed per day, but just 15g is recommended by the Department of Health for children aged one to three years.

We know that eating too many calories – not matching the energy consumed with the energy expended – leads to weight gain. But finding out how children consume their calories is important. Increased protein in early life is a risk factor for obesity in early life, and obesity often continues into adulthood. Both the high caloric intakes and the higher than recommended protein intakes found in our study suggest that toddlers today may be at increased risk of obesity and associated health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

The protein source

A previous study in Gemini found that children who ate higher amounts of protein at 21 months of age, gained more weight up to five years of age. It’s important to identify the sources of protein that may be linked to this risk of weight gain.

In Gemini, almost a quarter of children’s calorie intake was consumed in milk and many of the children (13%) were still drinking formula milk at 21 months of age. This suggests that one of the main dietary sources through which children might be obtaining excess protein, is milk. In fact, within Gemini it was protein consumed from dairy (rather than other animal-based protein or plant-based protein) that was driving increases in weight gain up to age five.

At 21 months of age, the transition from a primarily milk-based diet to family food should have occurred, but it appears that a number of children continue to drink large quantities of milk, high in calories and protein. It’s important that, as children begin to consume family food, milk intake is decreased and replaced with water rather than high-calorie, sugary drinks.

As well as getting too much protein, toddlers were also consuming too much salt. Sodium intake was on average 1,148mg a day, almost three times higher than the 500mg recommended. This is a concern because it may set taste preferences for the future, increasing the risk of raised blood pressure in later life. Most salt in the diet comes from processed foods making it more difficult for people to reduce their salt intake. Parents need to be made aware that many processed foods contain high levels of salt and they may need more guidance on checking food labels, choosing lower salt options and limiting the intake of high-salt foods such as ham and cheese.

Fibre intake among many young children was also low, at just half the recommended amount (8g versus 15g per day). Given that high fibre diets have been associated with reduced risks of cancers, coronary heart disease and obesity, it is important for children to consume sufficient amounts.

Iron and vitamin D intakes were also low. Almost 70% of children did not meet the recommended 6.9 micrograms of iron. And average vitamin D intake was 2.3 micrograms a day, falling far short of the 7 micrograms set by the Department of Health. Less than 7% of children met the recommended vitamin D level, and insufficient intake of vitamin D has been associated with poor health, including rickets.

Many toddler foods are now fortified with vitamin D and iron, but children are still not getting enough. Supplements were taken by a small proportion (7%) of children and, although intakes of vitamin D and iron were increased through supplements, most children were still not meeting the recommendations for vitamin D. This underlines the importance of the government recommendations that all children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement of vitamin D.

Parents need more guidance on the appropriate type, amount and variety of foods and drinks, together with appropriate supplements, in order to reduce obesity and other health problems that may affect their children in later life.

 

This article first appeared on the Conversation. You can read the original here.

 

 

Australian parents concerned about children’s food choices

New research shows nearly half of Australian parents are concerned their child is unable to make healthy food choices, and 3 in 5 are concerned that their child prefers processed food.

The survey, conducted by Medibank and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, confirms the need for more to be done to improve the knowledge and confidence among Australian children to grow and cook fresh and healthy food.

“With one in four Australian children obese or overweight, it’s vital that we teach our children to eat well and to be active,” Medibank Chief Medical Officer, Dr Linda Swan, said. “This survey shows that we still have a long way to go to support our children to make healthy food choices for their future.”

More than 1000 Australian primary school children (aged 5 to 12) and their parents participated in the survey, which included questions based on what’s taught through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. The survey found:

Only 22% of children correctly answered all questions about common fresh food sources. One in four didn’t know that butter comes from cow’s milk and not all children knew that apples and bananas are grown on trees; that potatoes are grown underground; or that tomatoes are grown on vines.

24% of primary school aged children do not eat dinner around the table with their family regularly (i.e. 2-4 days per week, or less often). Children who eat dinner around the table with their family at least once a week have better knowledge about where food comes from and how it is grown.

Three in five parents don’t believe their child would know how to bake a potato, and more than two in five don’t believe their child could boil an egg. Boys are less likely to know how to cook rice on the stove, how to bake a potato, or how to boil an egg.

The survey also revealed that children who knew more about how food is grown and where food comes from were more likely to know how to boil an egg, bake a potato, and cook rice on the stove; and children who are involved in helping to grow fruits and vegetables, and assist with grocery shopping and preparing meals at home, knew more about where food comes from and how it is grown.

Cut down on salt, drink less and move more: Australia’s blueprint to control chronic disease

Chronic diseases are responsible for nine out of ten deaths in Australia, and for much of the health expenditure about which governments are so concerned.

The risk factors underlying these chronic diseases in Australia need to be urgently addressed. Factors such as physical inactivity, obesity, poor nutrition, smoking and alcohol misuse contribute to a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Our new report, released this week, proposes a set of chronic disease targets especially designed for Australia. These draw from the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan targets for 2025 and include an additional area: mental health.

The focus is on population-based approaches to prevention, but we also target those at high risk of chronic disease. The 2025 targets Australian experts propose are:

  • Life – a 25% reduction in preventable early deaths from chronic diseases
  • Alcohol – at least a 10% reduction in harmful drinking
  • Exercise – a 10% reduction in inactivity
  • Salt – a 30% reduction in salt intake
  • Tobacco – a 30% reduction in adult tobacco use and a 60% reduction for people with mental illness
  • Obesity – no rise in the level of obesity
  • Diabetes – no rise in the level of new diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) – a 25% reduction across the population
  • Mental health – a 10% reduction in suicide rates (by 2020); to halve the employment and education gap for people with mental illness.

How are we doing?

Australia addresses some risk factors better than others. We perform well on tobacco control, for instance, and were the first to introduce plain packaging with graphic health warnings, in 2012. Ireland and the United Kingdom have since introduced plain packaging, and France, Norway, South Africa and Canada are committed to such legislation.

The drop in smoking rates to 12.8% reflects coordinated action using taxation, regulation of sales and advertising, and community education. But we still have work to do.

Australia’s performance in other areas is of major concern. In 2011/12, 63% of adults, or 10.8 million people, were overweight or obese. This makes us one of the heaviest nations in the world. Obesity carries significant health risks for heart disease and stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers as well as a range of other chronic diseases.

Salt intake is another area of concern; Australia is falling behind countries such as Britain in this area. In 2013, Australian men consumed 7.1 grams of salt each day and women 5.3 grams. Most salt in the Australia diet comes from processed foods and convenience foods, such as bread, cereals, soups and sauces, pizza and sandwiches.

Reducing Australia’s salt intake by 30% would result in 3,500 fewer deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks and save millions of dollars in the health-care system.

Four out of five Australian children (aged five to 17) don’t get enough physical exercise and more than half of Australian adults are physically inactive. Lack of physical activity contributes to early and preventable deaths and has about the same impact on people’s health as smoking and obesity.

Alcohol is implicated as a cause in more than 200 medical conditions such as cancer and stroke. Alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments are rising, and there is increased risk of injury through accidents and assaults associated with drinking.

Fixing our health and our economy

Chronic diseases are expensive, and monitoring both diseases and risk factors is essential to avert future costs and harms. Health spending on diabetes has been predicted to rise by 400% over coming decades, reaching A$7 billion in 2033. This is largely due to excess weight and obesity.

So how can we reverse this trend?

We need good information about the health of our population so that progress on risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure can be tracked. Carrying out the Australian Health Survey every five years is essential, so that we have direct measures of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels from a population sample. However, there is currently no national commitment to regular health surveys.

To address inequities, both monitoring and interventions need to be planned with the needs of disadvantaged groups in mind. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural Australians and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds bear a greater brunt of chronic disease and risk factor exposure.

For the millions of Australians living with chronic diseases, better coordination of care is key to improving health outcomes. This can be as simple as different health care professionals sharing patient information and coordinating appointments.

Or it may mean preventing chronic diseases from progressing. Vision and foot checks for people with diabetes, for instance, can help prevent complications such as amputations and loss of sight.

Information systems, including e-health records and patient registers, can also help. An IT system that prompts a check on whether a person with chronic lung problems has had the flu vaccine, for instance, could prevent significant illness or hospitalisation.

Finding our way

Australia has an opportunity to act on prevention and to invest in highly cost-effective policies and programs. We have a new national strategy for diabetes, and existing strategies in areas such as alcohol and obesity. What is missing is a focus on implementation.

A broad-based collaborative effort between Commonwealth, state and territory and local governments will be essential if Australia is to put in place effective prevention of chronic diseases by 2025.

Over time, Australian governments have not given adequate or sustained attention to keeping their population well. This must change if Australia is to have a thriving population and economy.

The Conversation

Rosemary Calder, Director, Health Policy, Victoria University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fonterra eyes massive growth with Chinese baby food JV

Fonterra said it welcomes the formal approval by Beingmate Baby and Child Food Company to establish a joint venture to purchase the Co-operative’s Darnum plant in Australia.

 
Chief Executive Theo Spierings said China is a key strategic market for Fonterra, and the global partnership with Beingmate provides significant growth potential for both companies. 
 
“The partnership will create a fully integrated global supply chain from the farm gate direct to China’s consumers, using Fonterra’s milk pools and manufacturing sites in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.
 
“By working with Beingmate, we are creating additional demand for ingredients and high-value paediatric and maternal nutrition products made from our New Zealand milk, complemented by milk drawn from other international milk pools.
 
“The Australian joint venture will manufacture nutritional powders, including infant formula and other nutritional milk powders, at Darnum in Victoria, for Fonterra and Beingmate and other customers,” said Mr Spierings.
 
Beingmate will own 51 per cent of the joint venture and Fonterra will retain a 49 per cent stake, and run the plant operation.
 
“Our partnership with Beingmate is already strengthening the presence of our Anmum infant formula brand.  Distribution through Beingmate is underway, with the first shipments landed in China in June.
 
“Beingmate has an extensive distribution and sales network with significant growth potential and the company continues to pursue a leading position in the China infant formula market,” said Mr Spierings.
 
The Beingmate Board’s approval of the joint venture will now be put to a vote of Beingmate shareholders at an EGM on November 16.
 

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