Thursday, 05 Feb 2015

Disease Prevention; what should we be debating?

As a community we regularly debate the value in proposals such as promotional restrictions on junk foods, or a consumption tax on sugary drinks, or restricted trading hours on alcohol outlets, or plain packaging cigarettes, etc.

These proposals attract lots of opinion maker and policy maker attention. And rightly so. Constructive ideas that could potentially improve the health and wellbeing of our population need to be taken seriously.

However, we ask how much more improvement could occur if we were genuine in our efforts to provide our children and young people with the education they need to be able to make safer and healthier choices.

It is worrying to think that cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes alone are now responsible for 42.5% of the total disease and injury burden in Australia. Many of us have known someone or been affected by the impact of such chronic diseases. This impact is felt not only by the individual but also by families and communities. Chronic disease is also a critical issue for our health systems and governments. Without early and preventive education how can we begin to curb this trend and help to foster future generations of much healthier Australians?

At Life Education we want to steer the debate back to education, which should be the core building block upon which any system wide plan is developed to address our chronic disease challenge – that will see lives changed and lives saved.

The role of schools is as crucial as ever and with support from specialist health education partners we can really begin to make a difference to the health prospects of our children.

For 35 years Life Education has been partnering with schools across Australia delivering health education - it is central to what we do - empowering children with the knowledge, strategies and skills they need to make safer and healthier choices. Our program, which reaches over 640,000 children every year, is a crucial intervention in helping to reduce the prevalence of preventable chronic disease. It is not enough to simply tell a child that eating healthy is good for you. We need to help them develop knowledge and understanding of the link between the choices they make now and the short and long term consequences of those choices, as well as the attitudes, the strategies, and the confidence and skills they need to make safer and healthier choices.

With one Australian diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes, developing in our children the capacity to make these choices is more important than ever.

We would welcome further debate on the issue.