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A task force set up to fight Western Australia's obesity crisis was axed just hours after the Barnett Government announced statewide budget cuts on Tuesday (17 April 2012).
WA Department of Sport and Recreation boss Ron Alexander told members of the Physical Activity Taskforce via email that the body had been 'identified as a measure towards meeting the State Government's global savings target'.
'The task force will be wound down over the remaining months of the 2011-2012 financial year,' he wrote in the leaked email.
The task force, which was launched with fanfare in 2001, helped create programs which encouraged people to exercise, promoted the health of school students and monitored levels of obesity and physical activity in children.
It boasted high-profile ambassadors including basketballer Luc Longley, footballer David Wirrpanda and High Court Chief Justice Robert French and was lauded by health professionals as international best practice in cross-government collaboration.
Abolishing it will save the Government $740,000 a year.
But task force members said the decision would end up costing taxpayers far more by putting a greater burden on the health system.
Heart Foundation cardiovascular health programs director Trevor Shilton said 40 per cent of adults and half of children in WA were not active enough, costing the state economy $1.38 billion a year.
He said the task force, which was heavily involved in the 'Find Thirty Every Day' exercise campaign and operated under the Be Active WA brand, could potentially save almost $3.2 million a year in direct health care costs.
University of WA Centre for the Built Environment and Health director Fiona Bull said the task force acted as a co-ordinator and leader to key agencies, including the departments of planning, transport, health and education. She was 'devastated' it had been cut.
Sports Minister Terry Waldron yesterday said it was a coincidence the task force was torpedoed the same day government departments were ordered to slash budgets by two per cent, saying it had already been earmarked for the axe.
He said all programs started by the task force would continue to be run by the agencies which currently administered them.
Source: The West Australian