MORE than half the population in Warrnambool and Moyne are overweight or obese, a workshop in Port Fairy has been told.
Warrnambool mayor Jacinta Ermacora also told the workshop for the South West Healthy Kids program that obesity was one of the region’s biggest community health challenges.
At the current rate of increase for obesity, 65 per cent of young Australians would be overweight or obese by 2020, she said.
The South West Healthy Kids program aims to tackle obesity by changing school and other neighbourhood spaces to help children make healthy eating decisions and be active.
The program, an alliance between schools, community and health agencies and local government, is aimed at children aged three to 12 years and their families.
Southwest Primary Care Partnership health promotions officer Karyn Knight said the workshop was presented with the findings of a survey that examined the physical activity and eating habits of six communities.
Ms Knight said the findings of the survey, which studied schools, pre-schools and sports clubs in Warrnambool, Koroit, Port Fairy, Macarthur, Hawkesdale and Mortlake, would be used to determine an action plan.
“To change lifestyles we need the support of the way neighbourhoods and communities are shaped so it is easier not to eat rubbish and be slothful on the couch,” Ms Knight said. She said local government was a key player because it was a provider of recreational opportunities.
Cr Ermacora said local government was obliged to be involved in the program.
“As a city, we can only ever be as strong as the least among us.
“We can’t claim success as a community without being honest about the fact that not all members of our community are able to share in the economic and lifestyle benefits of our current boom.
“There is plenty of evidence that providing active transport opportunities and better parks and gardens are influential to healthy lifestyles,” Cr Ermacora said.
The mayor also highlighted the benefits of improving the walkability of streets and neighbourhoods through planning, as well as pedestrian safety measures and advocating for funding to support local organisations such as schools,