Growing number of obese, overweight children in Canberra: report

By Kathleen Dyett and Lisa Mosley

More than a quarter of children in the ACT are either overweight or obese and the problem is worsening, a new report warns.

The ACT Government released its fourth annual compilation of data about the health, wellbeing, learning and development of children in the Territory compared to national indicators.

The report titled A Picture of ACT’s Children and Young People 2014 found that in the 2012 financial year, 19.4 per cent of ACT children aged 5-17 years were overweight, compared to 17.7 per cent nationally.

In that same age group, 6.9 per cent of ACT children were classified as obese, which was slightly lower than the national result of 7.6 per cent.

"The trend in children being overweight or obese has remained relatively constant in Australia but in the ACT there has been an increase in the percentage of children who are overweight from 2007–08 to 2011–12," the report said.

It also noted there was room for improvement in several other areas including the need to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the youth justice system.

But it said there were many positive outcomes for ACT young people, including an increase in the number of families accessing child and family centres.

The percentage of ACT women who smoked while pregnant dropped significantly between 2002-2011 and was well below the national rate.

Minister for Children and Young People Mick Gentleman said the report showed there was a need to work harder to improve children's health outcomes.

"ACT Health with the Chief Minister at the helm is really working hard to ensure that we reduce these rates (of obesity) for young people," he said.

"We're looking at removing sugary drinks, those sorts of things from the school yard to ensure they eat in a healthy way, to ensure that they get exercise and I think these are important projects.

"While there's some really difficult work to do on children's weight issues, we're working through that but there are some really good results in other parts of this snapshot."

As of June 2012, an estimated 374,912 lived in the ACT, with people aged 24 and younger making up about a third of that population.