Healthy living

Healthy living cafe

The issue

Australia’s childhood obesity rate continues to rise. In 2014, 27.4% of children aged 5-17 were reported as overweight or obese, up from 25.3% just three years prior.

The facts

  • Obesity and overweight can affect a child’s health and wellbeing, how they perform at school and their quality of life.
  • They are more likely to remain obese or overweight as adults, significantly increasing their risk of chronic illness.
  • Opportunities for physical activity as transport or play, both in and out of school, has been reduced.
  • Children are often exposed to highly processed, energy dense, nutrient poor foods which are cheap and readily available.
  • The risk of overweight and obesity can be passed on from one generation to the next as a result of behavioural and biological factors.
  • Comprehensive and systematic reviews of the evidence on food advertising to children have consistently concluded that food advertising influences the types of food children prefer, demand and consume, and is likely to contribute to poor diets, negative health outcomes, weight gain and obesity in children.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics' National Health Survey 2014

Source: The extent, nature and effects of food promotion to children World Health Organisation, 2009

Change we are seeking

  • State and local government to develop settings and systems that promote the preventative factors of movement and healthy eating in early childhood
  • Modelling of health promoting behaviours by parents, carers and teachers to establish healthy behaviours early in life.
  • Reducing access and availability of unhealthy food and drinks in schools and other places children access.
  • Clearer food labelling standards in an easy to understand format so that consumers can make informed decisions
  • Tighter regulation of junk food marketing and sponsorship targeting kids.
  • Retailers committing to ‘healthy checkouts’ free from confectionary and sugary drinks that are placed in this lucrative spot to attract that attention of kids. 

What’s the Y doing?

Recovery drink web banner

In Australia, 47% of children consume sugar sweetened beverages every day.[1]  While YMCA Victoria aims to improve the health and happiness of Victorians by encouraging them to be more active more often, our food and drink offering could only be described as junk: energy dense, high in fat, salt and/or sugar with little or no nutritional value. 

In 2014 we introduced our Healthy Food and Beverage Policy – aiming to remove all sugary drinks from YMCA Victoria managed recreation centres by 2017.  Holding our ‘Soft Drink Free Summer’ campaign from October 2015 to February 2016, we removed all soft drinks from 97% of our cafes, canteens, vending machines and kiosks.  Many centres also changed their drink fridge layout to promote healthier choices and reduce remaining sugary drinks (e.g. sport drinks) to a maximum of 10% of fridge space. 

YMCA Victoria is the first sports and recreation organisation of its size to make such a strong commitment to removing sugary drinks. We believe that this will not only impact the communities we work with by reducing consumption, but will also pave the way for other organisation to follow.

YMCA Victoria has taken the following steps to create real and sustainable change in the health of the communities we work with by:

  • Partnering with Deakin University to evaluate the impact of the policy, to collate data and build an evidence base that will benefit others
  • Actively working to share our experience removing sugary drinks and the knowledge we gained along the way with our partners, other organisations, health services and sporting groups
  • Working towards collective impact by forming alliances and collaborating with other organisations focussed on promoting healthy eating and reducing sugary drink consumption, including the Rethink Sugary Drink Alliance and Victorian Healthy Eating Alliance. 

Learn more about our Soft Drink Free Summer campaign

 [1]Australian Government Department of Health 2007, 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey- Main Findings Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO ), Preventative Health National Research Flagship, and the University of South Australia, Canberra