The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) has welcomed the federal Opposition’s strong actions to tackle obesity in Australia.
These key recommendations will form part of a national obesity strategy, announced last year by the COAG Health Ministers.
Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said that with over two thirds of adults and one quarter of children overweight or obese, today’s announcement represents the most significant commitment to tackling Australia’s obesity epidemic to date.
“Obesity is one of the greatest public health issues facing Australia, but it is not a problem without a solution. We have seen a growing awareness and understanding of the issue and are delighted to see a firm commitment to tackle it.”
The federal Opposition’s strategy includes specific plans to increase physical activity and improve nutrition and consideration of mandating the Health Star Rating system and food reformulation targets.
“Unhealthy diets are having a huge impact on Australians’ health with 35 per cent of the energy adults consume every day coming from highly processed foods, and for children, it’s even higher – 41 per cent.”
“The fact that only a third of products are displaying health star ratings under a voluntary system, with it more likely to appear on higher rating products, is a problem. Unless it is made mandatory together with setting targets for reformulation, it will simply give companies a place to hide.”
The federal Opposition has also committed to a review of the current rules around junk food marketing to children.
Ms Martin insisted any review should result in a genuine reduction in the amount of junk food marketing children are exposed to.
“We know junk food marketing directly impacts what children eat, what they want to eat, and what they pester their parents for. It’s wallpaper in their lives, bombarding them during their favourite TV shows, infiltrating their social media feeds and plastered across their sports grounds and uniforms when they play sport,” Ms Martin said.
“For too long we have left it up to junk food companies to police themselves through self-regulation. We’ve seen no reduction in unhealthy marketing to children since these sham rules were introduced. It’s time to put an end to this and introduce a system that truly protects children.”
The OPC also welcomed the $39 million investment into a national anti-obesity campaign over three years.
“We have an innovative suite of campaign advertising through LiveLighter that has been shown to change behaviour. The evidence shows that these campaigns are effective in helping to improve Australians’ diets, which ultimately will benefit their health and save on healthcare costs.”
Ms Martin stressed that any strategy must be developed independently, without the involvement of the ultra-processed food industry, which has already hampered progress to date.
“We know that there is high public support for policies and investment to tackle obesity in this country. Given the major health and financial costs on the nation, addressing obesity should be an important focus for any government.”