More on the Tasmanian Legislation

‘Eat Well Tasmania is impotent, poorly funded and from the last Financial Figures for 2011/12 year had a near halving of its funding’
My reply to Leonie Hiscutt’s response.I did receive a reply to my email last night from Leonie Hiscutt. Robin Tanner has put up her speech from Hansard if you wish to read it in the previous post.Dear Leonie,

Thank you for your reply and your tabled speech. I gain the impression from your speech that you believe that adequate measures are in place from Workcover Tasmania, Eat Well Tasmania and the HOVER program.
If you had delved further into the topic or corresponded with me I may have been able to shed some further information.Workcover Tasmania have a healthy nutrition guideline available on the link below but it requires some searching. I have been informed that one of the few places to take up its recommendations is within the Director of Public Health offices. It has certainly not made it into the Public Hospitals. It remains a recommendation and guideline only. The ward desks are openly selling chocolates and lollies as are the kiosks with the added cakes and soft drinks, all being done against Workplace Tasmania ‘guidelines’. Hardly a safe workplace.

Eat Well Tasmania is impotent, poorly funded and from the last Financial Figures for 2011/12 year had a near halving of its funding. Total annual grant monies of less than $120000 does not go far after wages, let alone doing anything in the community. The HOVER program has been ended according to the web site. Hardly a proactive stance by the government.

Education and providing the ‘choice’ of healthy food options is the way to go. The SA policy proposed was all about that if you looked carefully. It was about creating the food choices and declaring that 80% of the choices should be healthy and that the ‘red’ junk foods be limited to less than 20%. Currently the hospital kiosks and vending machines are 90% + junk food!

At this time the system is failing and the current ‘recommendations’ are being ignored. Time for something tangible. Time to put in some legislation to make those healthy choices available.

As per my previous email in September, I am available to discuss this topic. It is too important to ignore.

Gary Fettke
Orthopaedic Surgeon
M.B.,B.S.(University NSW), F.R.A.C.S.(Orthopaedic Surgery), F.A.Orth.A.

This is from Hansard  26/10/2013

Mrs HISCUTT – Mr President, I have been told to read fast, so excuse me if a gabble.

I do not believe that there is a need for the government to order a review of foods prepared and/or sold in our hospitals at this point in time. There are already several programs working in this area, taking a carrot approach to healthier eating in our community and not a stick. There is already a healthy workers advisory service under the auspices of Workcover Tasmania’s health cover and wellbeing advisory service with a 1300 number that provides for employers’ advice on how to introduce healthier eating in the workplace.

The honourable member may be aware of the HOVER program, started in 2010. HOVER is an acronym for Healthier Options in Vending and Employer Resource, with details available on the Eat Well Tasmania website.

I am reliably informed that we are already years ahead of South Australia with our Eat Well Tasmania projects. This would appear to be a more holistic approach to tackle obesity and diet-related health issues rather than a narrow concentration on healthcare workers who work in public hospitals. The cost benefit analysis of such a restricted program does not really stack up.

We are all concerned with the raised obesity epidemic and its associated health complications but obesity does not start or end with hospital canteens and food prepared for patients in hospital premises. Indeed, it should start, as was alluded to by the honourable member, in the grassroots of our community, well before a person goes into hospital. I am sure that there are other, better targeted and more efficient approaches, such as HOVER and Eat Well Tasmania that could address such health concerns more effectively.

It may also be a bit premature to talk about the healthy food and drink choices for staff and visitors in the South Australian health facilities, mandatory policy that the South Australian government introduced in 2009. The motion’s proponent, Mr Gary Fettke , believes from discussions that the policy has been a successful venture in South Australia and his letter, dated 28 September to all honourable members, says:

[TBC]I have written to the Premier and Health minister regarding the adoption of the South Australian practice of removing junk food from the hospital and health facility environments. The South Australian policy has been in place for the last few years and requires mandatory compliance. I understand from discussions that it has been a successful venture.

But where is the evidence? I can find no reviews of the policy’s implementation or compliance that are available publicly. We do not know if it is successful or not. The project is not due for completion until 2016, so it is unlikely we will find out anything before then.

Eat Well Tasmania has the infrastructure in place to work with private and public workplaces to improve the number of healthy options available to staff and visitors. Instead of instituting another review or another level of bureaucracy to monitor if our workplaces have healthy vending machines, why do we not let Eat Well Tasmania do its job?. Additionally, the State of Public Health report released this year suggests that the Tasmanian food and nutrition policy from 2004 is due to be redeveloped next year anyway. Could this not be considered then?

Further, the Joint Parliamentary Committee into Preventative Health Care has only just begun and perhaps the honourable member could refer the subject of vending machines to that committee rather than seek another review which would possibly duplicate this work.

Page 31 of the State of Public Health report 2013 from the Department of Health and Human Services says:

[TBC]In 2004, the Tasmanian government adopted the Tasmanian Food and Nutrition Policy which lays out a 10 year plan for improving food and nutrition in Tasmania. The policy covers key focus areas of environment, food safety, promoting healthy eating, breast feeding, food security, primary production, distribution, retail and wholesale, food service, labelling –

and indeed they are small labels –

media, marketing and advertising, technology and workforce development. This policy provides a rather unique, in Australian terms, platform for action across a wide range of sectors from producer to plate, that has guided a number of successful strategies, some mentioned below.

Those I have mentioned.

The policy is necessarily ambitious in its scope but provides Tasmania with an opportunity to improve population health and in a sustainable manner involving partnerships with industry. It is the intention to redevelop the policy in 2014.

To order a review at this time would seem to be a duplication of what is already underway.

While I commend and support the honourable member’s concern for the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians, to order such a review may take funds from the good projects in operation that are tackling obesity already and I therefore do not support his well-intentioned motion.