PEAK HOUR: Ambulances queue outside Lismore Base Hospital.
PEAK HOUR: Ambulances queue outside Lismore Base Hospital. Dominic Feain

Soft drink ban for Northern Rivers hospitals

THE sale of sugary drinks could be banned from all 14 hospitals and other facilities under the Northern NSW Local Health District umbrella.

Managers are keeping a close eye on Murrumbidgee LHD in the state's south-west, which this week became the first in NSW to prohibit soft drink sales.

More than half of Northern Rivers residents (52.1%) were overweight or obese in 2014 - up from 46.3% a decade earlier, according to the Ministry of Health.

A spokesman said the NNSWLHD was aware the ready availability of junk food and drinks played a role in the bulging statistics.

"Sugar-sweetened drinks, which include soft drinks, cordials, energy drinks, are associated with the high levels of overweight and obesity in our community and contribute to dental disease," he said.

"These have a significant impact on people's health and well-being, so reducing their consumption is very important to us.

"NNSWLHD will watch the implementation of the Murrumbidgee LHD directive with interest."

Murrumbidgee LHD chief executive Jill Ludford hoped the ban would ultimately be adopted across all state health facilities, adding that it was a health district's role to "set an example for our communities".

Changes are already under way in the Northern Rivers.

The cafe at the new Byron Central Hospital will be required to follow the Federal Government's Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

"NSW Health is currently updating policy about healthy food and drinks in health service facilities, and is working across government to support people to make healthy choices, and to make those healthy choices easy choices," the spokesman said.

"NNSWLHD is also working on a project with Oral Health Services to reduce sugary drink consumption in the children with whom they work." - ARM NEWSDESK


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