Letter to The Australian: Parents need support

Monday 19 May, 2008


It's a tired argument that parents should wear all the responsibility when it comes to kids and junk food.  (More Nanny State 19/5). 

The vast majority of parents support government regulation of food advertising to children because, despite their efforts, currently it is impossible for them to shield their children from commercial influences. Unfortunately, it's no longer just a matter of merely switching off the TV.  Food companies target children at home, at school and where they play through a range of channels , including websites with interactive games, viral email promotions, school fundraising and sports sponsorships.

Parents' efforts to encourage their children to eat healthily are undermined by million-dollar marketing campaigns that push high-fat/high-sugar/high-salt foods onto their children.  This influences children to desire and pester parents for foods that may be detrimental to their health, even though they lack the capacity to resist this influence and make decisions that take into account long-term consequences. 

Overweight and obesity among children is a complex problem, which parents can't solve on their own.  Addressing the problem will require a strong and comprehensive approach involving parents, schools, community organisations, health professionals and the food industry.  However, ultimately government must underpin this with policies that support healthy choices, and junk food marketing is one example.    

Parents are not ‘asking the state to let them off the hook.' They are asking for support from Government in what has become a nearly impossible task.

Jane Martin
Senior Policy Advisor
Obesity Policy Coalition