$3.9 million investment to address obesity crisis cutting life expectancy of Queensland kids

A young mother holding her son in her arms, both smiling

In response to Australia-first research about the impact of obesity on life expectancy of future generations, the Queensland Government has announced a $3.9 million investment to improve the health and wellbeing of the next generation of Queensland children.

Earlier today the state’s dedicated public health agency Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld) released the report that reveals that up to five years could be lost from the life expectancy for a Queensland child born in 2023 if obesity rates are not turned around.

HWQld warns the rates of overweight and obesity amongst Queensland kids will need to halve to restore life expectancy to that enjoyed by earlier generations. The findings come as excess weight costs the state’s health system an estimated $756 million a year, with two-thirds of adults and one in four children overweight or living with obesity.

The modelling, prepared for HWQld by researchers at the Centre for Social Data Analytics based on Queensland-specific data, shows:

  • Life expectancy for children born in the decade from 2023 could drop by up to 4.1 years in the general population if nothing is done to reverse obesity rates.
  • First Nations children could lose up to 5.1 years, potentially widening the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Queenslanders.

This research is an Australian first – never has there been projections made about the impact of obesity on life expectancy of future generations.

At today’s Health and Wellbeing Symposia at QPAC the Deputy Premier and Acting Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Steven Miles unveiled Generation Queensland (GenQ), an innovative, cross-government approach focussed on helping the next generation live healthier and more active lives.

“GenQ is an opportunity to make healthy happen for Queensland. Where every Queenslander can live their best life, regardless of postcode,” Minister Miles said. 

“An intergenerational opportunity to shift the dial and improve the health and wellbeing of Queensland kids, GenQ provides all Queensland government departments and agencies the commitment to work together towards a healthier future for our state.”

Led by Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld), GenQ will initially focus on three key areas – nutrition, physical activity and wellbeing – to drive change and improve the health outcomes of Queensland kids.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland Chief Executive, Dr Robyn Littlewood, said it was time for action to protect the life expectancy of all Queensland kids, no matter who they are or where they live.

“Through recent research and modelling undertaken, we know that Queensland children born in 2023 are at great risk of living a shorter life than their parents. This outcome has never been seen before,” Dr Littlewood said.

“With the increased prevalence of obesity impacting our children, should this continue, children born from 2023 could see a decline of up to 5 years off their life expectancy.

“Through the key focus areas of GenQ, we want to change this. We want children born from now to experience better health outcomes than the generations before them, not worse.

“This work, which will happen across all of Queensland and in more than just health, has the potential to change the lives of children for generations to come.”

GenQ will include the development and implementation of Queensland Obesity Prevention Strategy, the state’s response to the National Obesity Strategy, and the development of a state-wide Equity Framework.

“It is well known that things that affect health the most, often sit outside of health,” Dr Littlewood said.

“That is why we are working with 24 government departments and agencies to reduce the systemic barriers that can lead to poorer health – across health, housing, education, justice, urban planning and food security.”

GenQ will also include the development of the Queensland Remote Food Security Strategy and Action Plan, which will identify solutions informed by the community to address food security in remote First Nations communities through partnering with First Nations Mayors, community leaders, Community Controlled Organisations, government agencies and industry.

To ensure GenQ is shaped by those who need it most, HWQld will establish a GenQ Community Insights Panel, designed to capture the lived experiences of young Queenslanders and their families.

An integrated and collated whole-of-government GenQ Data Platform will be developed, to provide data and insights which can inform evidence-based decisions that impact the health and wellbeing of young Queenslanders and their families.

A new GenQ grants scheme will also be released, providing funds to researchers, organisations, schools, arts organisations/artists and community groups to develop solutions that support GenQ goals.

“We know that engagement with people and communities across Queensland will be central to the success of GenQ,” Dr Littlewood said.

“If we can get this right, we can improve health outcomes and create better lives for our children, which they can pass onto the next generation.”

The Queensland Government has several measures delivering on GenQ already under way, including:

  • $68 million invested into a range of community healthy lifestyle programs, including Deadly Choices, 10,000 Steps, Jamie’s Ministry of Food, and the Healthier Tuckshops program.
  • Establishment of the Health and Wellbeing Centre for Research Innovation, in partnership with The University of Queensland.
  • Development of family and clinician-focused solutions targeting the First 2000 days of life to support parents and children through pre-conception, pregnancy, and the first five years of life.
  • Delivery of Pick of the Crop, a healthy eating program bringing schools and farmers together to increase opportunities for Queensland primary school children to learn about and eat vegetables and fruit.
  • Development of a new A Better Choice Strategy – Sport and Recreation health eating policy designed to promote healthier food and drink choices for children and families at community sport.
  • Production and delivery of a free, play-centric web- and app-based wellbeing program that supports children and families as they build better health and lifestyle habits together.
  • Social marketing and communications campaigns across a variety of audience segmentations and behaviours.

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