A child and a dog playing with a ball

A new national framework has been created to help steer children and young people in Australia towards better health and well-being.

The Future Healthy Countdown 2030 tracks and reports on the most important health and well-being outcomes for young Australians amid rising concerns about the challenges facing this demographic. The framework will also provide a conversation starter on how children can be better supported to achieve healthy lifestyles.

Supported by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), the framework launches against a backdrop of issues impacting young people such as wealth inequality, inactivity, food insecurity and stress.

Research shows one in six Australian children and young people live in poverty, 24 per cent of 5–14 year olds are overweight/obese and 40 per cent of 16-24 year olds have a mental health disorder.

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio emphasised the critical nature of safeguarding the well-being of children.

“As one of the most affluent countries on the planet, Australian children and young people should be thriving. But instead the prospects for many Australian children are not only stagnating, they are moving backwards,” he said.

“We are currently falling behind on a key test of prosperity: that our children have opportunities to live as well or better than their parents.”

Dr Demaio said the Countdown aligned with the Federal Government's Measuring What Matters Framework, refining measures for children and young people while complementing the Early Years Strategy and prioritising prevention.

“By putting the spotlight on prevention, we can improve outcomes for both the present and future generations, taking inspiration from past successes such as universal healthcare, increased immunisation rates, and advancements in education,” he said.

Annually until 2030, the Countdown will bring together Australia's best minds and young voices, publishing insights on key measures of Australian children’s health and well-being.

The inaugural issue, titled "Future Healthy Countdown 2030: Measuring What Matters for Good Health and Wellbeing for All of Australia’s Children and Young People," is accessible in the Medical Journal of Australia.

MCRI Professor Sharon Goldfeld said the Countdown could prompt social, economic and political change to improve the prospects of Australia's children, particularly those experiencing disadvantage.

"We're at a critical time when children and young people are facing challenges that affect their well-being. The Future Healthy Countdown 2030 aims to highlight these issues, help shape policy decisions and shine a spotlight on progress,” she said.

“Issues such as increasing mental health difficulties, childhood poverty and access to quality education demand a more co-ordinated and joined-up approach in policymaking.”

VicHealth Social Connection and Mental Well-being Lead Kevin Kapeke said we needed to strengthen young people’s power in decision-making, addressing the fact that only 8 per cent of 15-19 year olds participate in political groups and activities.

"Young people deserve to contribute to decisions that affect their future. We need to address power imbalances, break down barriers and give them the agency to help shape policies for their well-being,” he said.