New Government Partnership Aims to Promote Healthy Eating

Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash has announced a new partnership of preventative health groups, food industry bodies and government to cooperatively tackle obesity and encourage healthy eating.

“Governments can’t force-feed healthy food to people,” Minister Nash said.

“We can however educate them to make their own healthy choices and take responsibility for what they eat. Australians under-consume fresh fruit and vegetables and this presents a dual opportunity – increasing consumption of fresh produce would benefit both consumer health and Australian farmers.

“The Healthy Food Partnership will work together on strategies to educate consumers on consuming fresh produce, appropriate portion sizes, and to accelerate efforts to reformulate food to make it healthier.

“It is only through cooperation and collaboration that we can achieve real results. We know the evidence is that those people who eat big portions tend to be overweight, and obesity is an issue which requires our attention. We will work with the food industry and preventative health organisations to create real plans to educate consumers on fresh produce and appropriate portion sizes.”

Members of the Healthy Food Partnership

The partnership will be chaired by Minister Nash and participants include:

“The Government is to be congratulated for successfully bringing together food producers, processors, retailers and public health groups with the common goal of improving the diet of all Australians,” said Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Gary Dawson.

“Australia’s $118 billion food and grocery industry transforms farm produce into food and the essentials of life for every consumer every day, and has played a lead role in reformulation, better information and choice for consumers seeking healthier options.”

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Overweight may pay more for health insurance

The partnership is timely, with news that the government is considering allowing health insurers to risk-rate health insurance policies for some lifestyle issue, including smoking and obesity. The considerations will form part of an upcoming health insurance industry roundtable discussion; the government has also invited the public to have their say on the issue via an online survey.

“It’s important we’re able to ask consumers what they expect from their private health insurance and there’s plenty of room to do that without moving towards US or UK models that exclude sick people and make it only available to the rich, which we don’t support,” said Minister Ley when announcing the online consultation.

The mooted consideration has been met with opposition in some quarters, with the Doctors Reform Society calling it “social engineering”.

On the other hand, it is a measure that may gain support from some health insurers, with nib health funds limited (nib) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mark Fitzgibbon, telling CANSTAR that being able to risk rate for behaviour such as smoking (as distinct from uncontrollable factors such as gender or age) is a reform he would like to see come out of the roundtable discussions.

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