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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12902


Mr PYNE (10:39 PM) —Physical inactivity is a health hazard, and tonight I would like to comment on the government's Active Australia program. Every credible report that has been produced concerning preventive health endorses the importance of keeping fit as one of the most effective ways to remain healthy and to help avoid serious illness.


Mr Fitzgibbon —Of course you're practising what you're preaching.


Mr PYNE —Indeed, and you are doing the same thing yourself. I see you in the gym on a regular basis. According to my colleague the federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Michael Wooldridge, studies have demonstrated that, if just five per cent of adults undertook regular, moderately intensive physical activity, over 700 premature deaths could be prevented each year.

A healthier population is not only a good social policy outcome but also a positive economic outcome. A healthier population presents less of a demand on our public and private health systems and would considerably reduce escalating costs. It is generally accepted that regular exercise will help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, adult onset diabetes, colon cancer, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

In addition, the proactive health feature of exercise is that it assists mental health by reducing an individual's susceptibility to depression and anxiety, which is something that we in this place could all do with, the management of arthritis, mobility, balance and muscular flexibility, which also reduces the risk of injury to an individual through falls. Yet, despite the commonality of this knowledge, almost all reports indicate that Australians are exercising less and, on average, are becoming more overweight. As a result, the national rate of health complications, such as adult onset diabetes and coronary heart diseases, is increasing.

Mr Kerry O'Brien, who owns and manages a gymnasium in my electorate of Sturt and is very passionate about helping people lead healthier lives, recently sent me a copy of an editorial from a fitness journal called Body Life. The editorial says, in part:

In 1987, 13.7 million Americans were working out in fitness clubs; that number increased to 24.2 million by year-end 1998. Between 1995 and 1998, membership increased by 1.7 million each year.

A major contributor to this rapid growth of the past years was the 1996 Surgeon General Report, wherein he reiterated the importance of fitness training for the prevention of many illnesses and for the promotion of good health.

The 1996 US Surgeon General report into physical activity and health remains one of the most authoritative and comprehensive studies regarding the nexus between physical activity and good health. The report also explores methods to promote more active lifestyles whilst taking into account that, in a highly technological society, it is increasingly convenient to remain sedentary, and that discourages physical activity in both obvious and subtle ways.

The key recommendations contained in the report advocate an integrated approach to promoting physical activity, with a particular emphasis to be placed on school based interventions for youth. Specifically, the report stated that `every effort should be made to encourage schools to require daily physical education in each grade and to promote physical activities that can be enjoyed throughout life'. The report also identifies the importance of community based initiatives to promote more active lifestyles.

An important feature of these initiatives is the necessity to cater for the needs of special populations such as people with disabilities, the elderly and racial and ethnic minorities. Whilst the United States has a different ethnic composition from Australia, it is worth noting that Australia's Aboriginal population, particularly those in remote communities that do not have access to affordable fresh foods, have some of the poorest standards of health in the country.

In Australia, this government, through the Active Australia program, has taken some important steps to promote more active lifestyles among the population. Active Australia is a national participation framework to encourage all Australians to participate in physical activity such as organised sport, community recreation, fitness training at gymnasiums and outdoor and other physical activities. Similar to the recommendations of the United States Surgeon General's report, the Active Australia model promotes the delivery of participation opportunities at the local or grassroots level and highlights both the personal and the community benefits of being active.

But the Active Australia initiative must continue developing and evolving. Ultimately, the program needs to make the same sort of impact on the community as the Norm: Life Be In It campaign of about two decades ago. With the 2000 Olympics just around the corner, we have an excellent marketing opportunity to further promote the benefits of physical activity. (Time expired)