In an effort to tackle obesity, the NSW Government has announced today it will be the first state in Australia to remove sugary drinks from its hospitals and health facilities.
Sugar-sweetened beverages with no nutritional value, such as Coke and Pepsi, will be phased out from all onsite cafes, staff kiosks, vending machines and catering services by December. The sugary drink restriction is part of NSW Health's new Healthy Choices in Health Facilities policy framework.
"We are working toward a 5 per cent reduction in overweight and obesity rates in adults by 2020, and there's no better way to start than right here on our own doorstep," said NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant in a statement.
"It is important NSW Health provides healthy food and drink choices for all our staff and visitors. By establishing this model we hope it shows how a workable strategy can be successfully implemented across any organisation to assist healthier choices in any staffing environment."
Public health lawyer Alexandra Jones, from The George Institute for Global Health, welcomed the announcement.
"This is a fantastic example of leadership from NSW. It demonstrates one way we can set up our health system to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay – not just treat them," she said.
"Leadership by the health sector is a critical step. We saw this happen with smoking – where the health sector leads, workplaces and other public places follow."
Soft drinks purchased externally will still be permitted at health facilities.
The Australian Beverages Council is the peak body representing the interests of soft drink companies in Australia. The organisation's chief executive officer, Geoff Parker, has issued a statement saying the council is "disappointed" with the decision NSW Health has taken.
"From the last Australian Health Survey, the Department would know that soft drinks contribute less than two per cent of the average person's daily kilojoule intake," Parker said. "It would also know that in adults alone, over one third of their kilojoules come from discretionary or treat foods, with soft drinks ranked eighth in that list of kilojoule contribution.
"It's confusing why NSW Health has focussed on the two percent and the eighth ranked treat item, yet seemingly ignored everything else people eat and drink."
Three local health districts in NSW had already begun to restrict the sale of sugary drinks at their healthcare facilities before the policy framework.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District removed sugary soft drinks from the vending machines at all its facilities last year. Westmead Hospital in Sydney stopped selling sugar-sweetened beverages in March and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District followed suit by announcing it would also reduce the availability of unhealthy food and drinks on premises.
In Victoria's south-west, 13 health districts have discontinued the sale of sugary drinks at their hospitals and facilities. New Zealand has had a government-enforced ban on the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks at healthcare sites since 2015 and England's National Health Service are considering a similar move.