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Launch of 'Dietary guidelines': speech.

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Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

19 June 2003

Launch of Dietary Guidelines

This text was endorsed by the Minister for use in speaking at this event. Please check against actual delivery.

I am very pleased to join with my colleague, the Hon Larry Anthony, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in congratulating the Health Advisory Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council on developing these guidelines.

The formal titles are Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults and the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia incorporating the Infant Feeding Guidelines for Health Workers.

Together these guidelines and the associated resources will be a valuable and up-to-date addition for family libraries, and will be gratefully received by medical and nutrition professionals both here and overseas.

They address many of our current concerns as individuals and as a community.

The Australian government has been providing nutrition advice for more than 75 years.

For the past two decades, in response to increasing public interest, the National Health and Medical Research Council has issued public health guidelines giving dependable dietary advice for Australians.

The complete revision of these guidelines, funded by my Government, has taken three years and has been a major project of the Health Advisory Committee’s Dietary Guidelines Working Party.

Substantial public and targeted consultation took place with more than 90 submissions received and considered by the working party and specialist comment obtained from leading experts.

What we have, as a result, are recommendations based on the best scientific evidence which can improve the health of Australians and reduce the burden of preventable diet-related death, illness and disability.

The principal diet-related conditions are - coronary heart disease,

- stroke and - some cancers - diabetes.

It is estimated that, together, these cost the nation about six billion dollars a year.

Clearly, the potential economic and personal benefit of an effective nutrition-based preventive strategy is great.

I am pleased that prevention received extra attention in the budget this year in line with becoming a fourth pillar of Medicare.

With the ageing of our population, it is important that we prepare for a healthier future by taking better care of ourselves and avoiding preventable illnesses wherever we can.

These guidelines will now make it easier for families and individuals to understand the relationship between diet and disease, the nutrients available in the Australian food supply, and the contribution diet can make to improving our quality of life and reducing illness.

There are some very important changes and updates, including an extension to the recommended period for exclusive breastfeeding of infants - where this is possible.

Another example is in the recommendations regarding fat intake.

We now believe that children can begin consuming reduced fat dairy products at an earlier age than previously recommended.

And in line with recent World Health Organisation advice (and, incidentally, my strong personal belief), the guidelines contain cautions about consuming too much sugar in food and drinks.

In November 2002, the growing obesity problem was brought to the attention of all Australian Health Ministers.

As a result, we established a National Obesity Taskforce to give us a comprehensive national plan of action to operate at all levels of government and involve all sectors.

You will see that these guidelines, too, give good advice about balancing diet, weight maintenance and the role of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle.

They will complement the popular consumer publications and you will be pleased to hear the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating in Food for Life can stay on your fridge as a reminder before you open it.

These guidelines will be influential in persuading health authorities and the food industry right around Australia to whether there is a need to revise current practices and standards.

Because prevention is a subject so close to my heart, I would like to especially thank Dr Katrine Baghurst and Professor Colin Binns - co-chairs of the NHMRC Dietary Guidelines Working Party, and all the working party members - for such a fine job.

It is ongoing commitment and dedication which has produced such high quality, comprehensive documents and, on behalf of the nation and our future health, I thank them very much.