Council takes away key learnings from London health summit

Brendan Rees

City of Melbourne councillor Dr Olivia Ball says a key learning from her attendance at a health summit in London was the important role urban planning can play in childhood nutrition.

Cr Dr Ball said London’s ban on any new fast-food outlets opening within 400 metres or a five-minute walk of all primary and secondary schools, which came into effect in 2019, “has had a demonstrable impact”.

“Students who attend schools that are within walking distance of a fast-food outlet drink more sugary beverages, eat less fruit and vegetables, and are more likely to be overweight,” she said.

Cr Dr Ball also noted that to tackle childhood obesity, the Transport for London (the government body responsible for the transport network in London), in 2019, also banned advertising of unhealthy food and beverages across its transport network based on fat, sugar and salt content, as well as gambling, breastmilk substitutes and tobacco.

Cr Dr Ball made the comments as part of her post-travel report during her address at a Future Melbourne Committee meeting on May 16, after representing the council at a Partnership for Healthy Cities (PHC) Summit in London from March 14 to 16, where she joined leaders from 70 countries.

The summit discussed strategies to combat the global burden of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, as well as injuries, which are responsible for 80 per cent of all deaths globally.

Lessons from the summit will inform the City of Melbourne’s policy and strategic commitments including its Food City: The City of Melbourne Food Policy, Smoke-free Melbourne Policy, and Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2021-25.

Cr Dr Ball said the link between urban planning and public health was a “big take away” from the summit but made no suggestion it would be considered as part of the council’s future health policies.

However, she noted, “we need to make healthy choices, whether it’s what we eat or how active we are, easier and more appealing”.

“While we think of health as a function of the state primarily, there is a huge amount that goes on in public health preventative and non-communicable disease prevention at local government level,” she said.


We have direct service provision of course, for instance, our child vaccination program and maternal child health and ensuring that the restaurants that you eat in observe the necessary food safety standards, and other forms of enforcement in terms of tobacco control.


PHC covered the cost of Cr Dr Ball’s airfares and accommodation, with the council contributing $68.92 in incidental expenses.

Cr Dr Ball also travelled to Adelaide from May 1 to 4 to attend the Preventive Health Conference 2023 and pre-conference workshop at a cost of $2723 to council. Topics at the conference included vaping and smoking cessation, obesity prevention, maternal and child health, and nutrition.

Meanwhile, Cr Kevin Louey travelled to Manila, the Philippines, to participate in the Business Partner Cities Network Roundtable from March 15 to 18.

The ratepayer-funded trip cost $7569, including $5834 for airfares and $1539 for accommodation.

Cr Louey joined leaders from 15 cities to explore ways of “strengthening innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems” in the economic climate after COVID. He also undertook meetings with Manila-based organisations operating in the innovation, startup, and investment space.

“The meetings indicated that clear opportunities exist for Melbourne in the areas of media and tourism-tech, agtech, game development and med-tech for further consideration,” a post-travel report said. •

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