Active Living NSW
Active Living NSW was established in April 2017 as a partnership between NSW Ministry of Health and the National Heart Foundation - NSW Division to support the physical activity and healthy built environment deliverables of the NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy. It continues key pieces of work previously undertaken by the NSW Premier’s Council for Active Living (PCAL) to promote active living through influencing the physical and social environments in which communities live.
The NSW Premier's Council for Active Living (PCAL) aimed to build and strengthen the physical and social environments in which communities engage in active living and healthy eating. It comprised senior representatives from across government, industry and the community sector. PCAL's activities were informed by better practice recommendations that highlighted the need for high-level interagency collaboration as a key component of a comprehensive strategy to increase health promoting physical activity and healthy eating. A key focus was on initiating policy change through the provision of strategic advice and advocacy. PCAL concluded in December 2016. View the official communique here.
Why is Active Living important?
Just over half of the NSW population currently meets the recommended level of at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Chronic diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading causes of ill health in Australia. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It may also increase the risk of depression and anxiety, unhealthy weight gain and musculoskeletal problems.
There is a rapidly growing body of evidence which demonstrates that being active in everyday life has substantial positive impacts on our health, as well as potential environmental, social and economic benefits.
Active Living and the Built Environment
There is growing evidence that demonstrates that the way our built environment is designed and managed has an impact on physical activity. Cities, towns and neighbourhoods that are designed to encourage physical activity can have a significant positive impact on the health of the community.
Characteristics of the built environment influence physical activity...In particular, the built environment can shape travel behaviour, including the quantity of walking, cycling, public transport and car travel, as well as the amount of leisure time that is available for other healthy pursuits. The built environment can also facilitate opportunities for recreational physical activity, by providing well maintained and useful open spaces, in addition to safe and amenable streets for non-utilitarian walking and cycling. (NSW Healthy Built Environments Program Literature Review, 2011, p45).
There is significant opportunity in NSW at both a State and local level to promote healthy built environments that support physical activity, healthy eating and social inclusion.
The built environment where we live, work and play has a key role in supporting our physical and mental health. Our cities and towns must be places where it is easy for us to be active every day, as well as where we can easily access fresh and nutritious food - whether it be in local shops or from nearby farms or community gardens. The only way that this can happen is if health and built environment professionals work together. The NSW Government's Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy has many policies and actions that will create the conditions for this to happen to ensure that we have the best chance to deliver a healthy built environment for all members of our community" (Associate Professor Susan Thompson, Professor of Planning; Head of City Wellbeing Program, UNSW; Associate Director, City Futures Research Centre, UNSW).