When comparing approaches to cancer prevention in Perth, Scotland and Perth Western Australia (WA) the first thing I noticed was messaging. The Australians don’t go for our soft approach such as “try this” or “choose that” but straight up clear commands!
“MOVE YOUR BODY” and to be physically active every day offers great scope for rock ‘n’ roll, jiving and other cool dances but it also reminds us about being active throughout the day. I was delighted to see a wonderful stair prompt when I arrived at Perth conference centre to “Take the stairs instead”.What an excellent addition to our healthy meetings campaign.
In our lunchtime walking break between sessions in Kalgoorlie we walked the first couple of km of the Parkrun course. I hadn’t realized that these events are held throughout the world – a perfect starter or maintenance activity for non-competitive runners (read more). I also spied some interesting outdoor equipment and posters advising on stretching activities. So many options for keeping fit throughout the working day, leisure time and active travel.
Being physically active is also a key component in the LiveLighter campaign designed to encourage simple changes in lifestyle, and advocating for healthier environments including less promotion of junk food, better access to healthy food, better food labelling and infrastructure and policies. The campaign is jointly supported by the Government of WA Department of Health, Heart Foundation and Cancer Council. The campaign is hard to ignore – very large posters which display “toxic fat” are visible in shopping centres as well as regular news and media slots. Food intake is of course a key component of Live Lighter and their website (livelighter.com.au) has great guidance on portion size, cutting back on sugar, snacks, recipes etc.
However, this programme isn’t the only work around food in WA that Cancer Council are involved with. Food poverty in the midst of plenty exists internationally. The WA food bank work is evident with 52,300 people relying on food relief services each month (35% are children), however, it is notable that unlike most UK facilities fresh foods and vegetables are supplied.
WA has also had a long running nutrition education programme called FOODcents (supported by WA Government, Australian Red Cross, Foodbank and Cancer Council) which aims to provide disadvantaged individuals with the knowledge, skills and motivation to but healthy foods on a limited budget. A recently published academic paper suggests that it does achieve these objectives.
Finally a word about drink – or really the same words as we see in the European Code Against Cancer – AVOID ALCOHOL, try alcohol free days and non-alcoholic drinks. Soft drinks could be a good option but they can provide unwanted sugars (yes, even fruit juices) and the LiveLighter programme provides a great tool (vending style) for calculating the amount of sugar in commonly available drinks, your personal potential weight from your reported consumption and the amount of specific exercises you need to do to avoid this. Try the test here.
One thing that really does stand out in Perth is the availability of free water in all cafes, restaurants etc. In addition, the Liquor control act specifies that drinking water must be provided free at licensed premises and as part of the licensing requirements staff receive training in the responsible serving of alcohol. Providing water to slow down the rate of alcohol consumption seems like a great idea!
My Australian colleague Dr Christina Pollard says “There is no advertising or promotion of it as a health measure, it simply is. We appreciate it, drink it, but do not really notice it because we do not have to ‘opt in’ for it. Water at the table is a given or is on hand, and free!”
Lessons from good practice for many sectors!
Thanks to Dr Christina Pollard (Research Fellow at the School of Public Health at Curtin University, Australia; and a Fellow of World Cancer Research Fund International), Terry Slevin (Director Education and Research) and Steve Pratt (Nutrition and Physical Activity Manage), Cancer Council WA.
Professor Annie S Anderson BSc PhD RD FRCP (Edin)