Australia

Heart Foundation releases second edition of its 'Blueprint for an active Australia'

THE National Heart Foundation of Australia last week said the release of the second edition of its 'Blueprint for an active Australia' is a call to all Australian governments to implement the organisation's 13-point plan to get the nation moving.

Under the action areas of built environment and active travel, the report calls for the appointment of a federal minister responsible for urban development, federal funding to improve public transport, minimum net-density thresholds to create compact mixed-use neighbourhoods and the implementation of congestion pricing or other similar schemes.

National CEO of the Heart Foundation, Mary Barry, said that despite the image of ourselves as an active nation, the data tells a different story, with children found to be particularly at risk.

"The majority of Australian children between the ages of 5-17 do not currently meet the physical activity guidelines and participation decreases with age, from 36 per cent of five to eight year olds to just 6 per cent of 15 to 17 year olds," Ms Barry said.

According to the Heart Foundation's national spokesperson for physical activity, Trevor Shilton, physical inactivity is estimated to be costing the Australian economy close to $14 billion and is the cause of 16,000 premature deaths.

"It's important to note the power parents can and should play in advocating for good quality walking and cycling paths, safe road crossings, and school programs to promote and provide physical activity for their children, including safe walking and cycling," Mr Shilton said.

"Only one in five kids in secondary school and a third of those in primary school walk or cycle to school. As a society we need to do what we can to support active kids who walk and cycle to 'future proof' them against chronic disease."

The report's 13 action areas are:

  • Built environments – Create built environments that support active living;
  • Workplaces – Promote physical activity before, during and after work;
  • Health care – Develop healthcare systems that promote and support physical activity participation;
  • Active travel – Encourage more walking, cycling and public transport use;
  • Prolonged sitting (sedentary behaviour) – Promote opportunities and approaches to reduced prolonged sitting;
  • Sport and active recreation – Increase physical activity levels through sport and active recreation;
  • Disadvantaged populations – Address inequality in physical activity participation;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – Provide programs and opportunities to increase physical activity levels among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Children and adolescents – Promote healthy development through physical activity participation;
  • Older people – Support healthy and active ageing;
  • Financial measures – Provide financial incentives to make active choices cheaper and easier;
  • Mass-media strategy – Promote the benefits of physical activity; and
  • Research and program evaluation – Support the implementation of physical activity initiatives through research, monitoring and evaluation.

Also last week, a new group committed to reducing Australia's rate of chronic disease by prescribing physical activity was launched.

The National Physical Activity Alliance comprises 11 non-government health and fitness organisations who will co-ordinate activity and research to increase the level of physical activity among Australians, particularly those with or at risk of chronic disease and conditions.

The Alliance foundation members are: Alzheimer's Australia, Arthritis Australia, Australian Physiotherapy Association, Cancer Council Australia, Exercise & Sports Science Australia, Fitness Australia, The National Heart Foundation of Australia, Kidney Health Australia, Lung Foundation Australia, Osteoporosis Australia and the National Stroke Foundation.

More information about the 'Blueprint for an active Australia' is available from the Heart Foundation's website at <http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/> or directly from this link (PDF: 12.7 MB).

More information about the National Physical Activity Alliance is available from <http://npaa.org.au/>.

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