The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has welcomed Labor's plan to prevent chronic disease but warns more needs to be done to reduce the impact of obesity.
On Saturday the Australian Labor Party announced a preventive health package which includes measures to help tackle obesity: investment in 50 Healthy Communities nationwide, and Australia's first National Physical Activity Strategy and a National Nutrition Framework.
OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin said: "With 63 per cent of Australian adults and 27 per cent of children overweight or obese, weight-related health issues are the leading health challenges facing this country.
"For years we've seen limited policy action by Australian governments to tackle obesity, so it is promising to see Labor commit to funding initiatives and announcing policies to help reduce the risk of weight-related chronic disease among Australians.
"Community-focused health initiatives such as the Healthy Communities concept Labor has proposed can be effective in changing health behaviours. The expansion of the Health Star Rating system is vital to ensuring that it is included on products that are used by shoppers to make healthier choices. Nesting these in an overarching nutrition strategy that improves what Australians eat is an urgent priority.
"Obesity costs the nation around $3.8b in direct health costs. If we are serious about improving the health of Australians, we also need tougher restrictions on junk food marketing to children and a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks."
The OPC recommends four key actions by all national parties to address the obesity problem:
- Develop and implement a long-term, comprehensive, integrated healthy weight strategy
- Take action to substantially reduce children's exposure to unhealthy food marketing
- Introduce a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and use the money raised to offer healthy food subsidies for people on low incomes and support obesity prevention initiatives.
- Make the Health Star Rating System mandatory to ensure it is displayed on all packaged food products.