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Population Survey Reports

 healthy platter

Information on the food habits, physical activity and weight status of children in NSW

We know that physical activity, good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight are important factors for good health. However, complex lifestyle factors can get in the way of good health. They can also be difficult for people to change.

Information from national and state population surveys can help us better understand these challenges. They also guide the development of sound policies, programs and practices to improve their health of our communities.

Over time these surveys also help us track whether the rates of childhood obesity and overweight children are growing, along with some of the factors that contribute to these changes.

Recent large national and NSW surveys include (in order of year conducted):

  • NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) 2010.
  • 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey: Main Findings report
  • NSW Population Health Survey: 2007- 2008 Report on Child Health
  • NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey: 2008 Report.

Each of these surveys has a special purpose and uses different methods. However, the combined results paint a useful picture of children’s weight patterns and the behavioural risk factors that can lead to children being overweight and obese.

Key findings

  • Many more children today are overweight or obese than in comparable surveys conducted 20-25 years ago.
  • Most children had food habits that did not meet the recommendations set out in the Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents.
  • Many children did not eat the recommended daily amount of healthy plant-based foods, such as fruit and vegetables, bread and other grain foods.
  • Most children did not drink reduced fat milks, as recommended for children over two years of age.
  • Many children consumed excessive amounts of low-nutritional foods and drinks which are high in kilojoules, such as sugary drinks, confectionary, cakes, fried potato products, potato crisps,and salty snack foods.
  • Behaviours that undermine healthy eating were common, such as skipping meals, parents offering lollies as a reward for a child’s good behaviour and not routinely eating as a family at the table.
  • Outside homework and school time, a high proportion of children spent an excessive amount of time on small screen recreation.