Year 6 Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey ACT 2006

Health Series Number 43

Published: August 2007


Download: Report on the 2006 ACT Year 6 Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (PDF File - 829k)

Physical activity and proper nutrition play a key part in young people's physical, social and mental development and wellbeing. A physically active lifestyle in children brings benefits such as strengthening of bones and joints; cardio-vascular fitness; healthy lifestyle behaviours that continue into adulthood; as well as gains in social and emotional development. Similarly, optimal nutrition in children is necessary for brain development, strong bones and healthy body functioning, and sets the stage for healthy eating in adulthood.

Children who are not sufficiently physically active and do not have a balanced, well-proportioned diet are at risk of becoming overweight and obese. Increases in childhood overweight and obesity are now emerging as a serious global public health issue with the World Health Organisation (WHO) describing this increase as an epidemic in some countries. In the United States the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has trebled in the last two decades. A similar pattern is emerging in Australia. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) estimates that between 20% and 25% of Australian children are now overweight or obese , an increase from 1985, where 10% to 12% were estimated as overweight or obese. The 2003 Western Australia Child and Adolescent Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (CAPANS) found 23.1% of males and 30.5% of females aged 7 to15 years were overweight or obese. Results from the NSW School Children's Physical activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) estimate that 31.6% of boys and 23.4% of girls in Year 6 (in NSW) are now overweight or obese.

In response to the alarming increase in childhood obesity and also the absence of reliable ACT data, ACT Health was granted funding in the 2004-05 ACT Government budget for the purpose of developing surveillance of prevalence and trends in childhood obesity in the ACT. A project officer was appointed to manage the development of the project and the ACT Child Healthy Weight Surveillance Technical Reference Group was established to provide technical expertise in the development of the project. The group consisted of members with expertise in the fields of population health surveillance, nutrition, physical activity and health promotion.

Findings from a scoping study recommended as a first priority, that information be collected on physical activity, nutrition and weight status in children of primary school age. This was due to the lack of data on children of this age group. The study further recommended the development of a self-report survey targeting Year 6 children within ACT primary schools.

In 2006, the ACT Year 6 Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (ACTPANS) was administered throughout primary schools within the ACT. The ACTPANS provides, for the first time, information on a range of healthy weight priority areas in ACT Year 6 children, including weight status, participation in physical activity, eating patterns and environments, attitudes and psychosocial outcomes.

This report presents the results of this survey.