Better than rest but still 48.9% overweight
WHILE data suggests the number of overweight adults in Baw Baw is rising to almost half of the population, a proactive locally-run healthy living program has reached the end of its funding period and is decentralising its campaign.
This article was first published in the 10 October 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
The Being Healthy Baw Baw program, funded through a grant from the Council of Australian Governments obtained by the Baw Baw Shire Council, ended on 30 June. The program aimed to educate the people of Baw Baw of the importance of healthy and sustainable eating through marketing, events and projects, including street parties and community gardens.
Projects started by the program will now be maintained by groups including the West Gippsland Healthcare Group, schools and clubs.
A spokesperson for the Baw Baw Shire said the council and most affected agencies would continue to monitor health data and “new evidence-based initiatives to ensure our approach best meets the needs of the community,” however the impact of the new decentralised model on the high obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes rates which prompted the creation of the program remains to be seen.
Obesity is a serious problem for Gippsland. Data supplied by the Latrobe Community Health Service suggests the Gippsland’s “overall rate of overweight and obesity in adults is at 75 per cent,” however Baw Baw fares much better.
“Baw Baw’s prevalence of overweight and obesity is 48.9 per cent, compared to the state average of 49.8 per cent, according to the preliminary findings from the Victorian Population Health Survey 2011-12,” LCHS Manager of Primary Prevention Christina Rush told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“We believe these figures are high in Gippsland for a number of reasons, including not meeting the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, sedentary behaviour and alcohol consumption.”
“High levels of soft drink consumption is also a big factor – 13.3 per cent of Gippslanders consume soft drink every day compared to the state average of 12.4 per cent; however, this rate in Baw Baw is lower than the state average at 9.7 per cent.”
Ms Rush said obesity and its associated diseases “puts a strain on public funds and acute health services.”
“For example, in recent years, non-urgent patient presentations at West Gippsland Hospital have increased by almost 23 per cent.
“Health prevention, including maintaining a healthy weight, can help take pressure off emergency departments and keep people out of hospital for longer.
“People can take control of their health by making small changes. The current Live Lighter campaign, supported by Healthy Together Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation, aims to increase understanding of the risks associated with poor lifestyle choices.”Some ways people can introduce changes into their lives are by increasing some things, such as by eating two portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables a day, and by being more active.
“Positive changes can also happen by cutting back on certain things, like salt, sugar, alcohol, saturated fats and the amount of time spent sitting.”
That goal is remarkably similar to what Being Healthy Baw Baw was pushing for, though that program was also able to take the initiative and see changes made to community infrastructure and facilities to encourage exercise and healthy eating.
In the final Healthy Baw Baw report, presented to councillors last month, organisers said it was hoped the Being Healthy Baw Baw Networking Group which was established at the commencement of the program would continue to meet and promote healthy eating in the area.
It is also hoped a number of “community champions” will continue to advocate for healthy living, and the new infrastructure created during the operating period of the Being Healthy Baw Baw program will continue to serve and encourage the community.
The West Gippsland Healthcare Group declined to comment for this story.
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