I have been troubled by the government’s lack of action in key areas of health policy, especially obesity and preventive health.
I have advocated for an inclusive, community-led approach to dealing with obesity through my participation as a Member of the Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic. I enjoyed participating in committee hearings in Adelaide and Melbourne and engaging with many of the submissions.
Through that process I learned that an effective strategy to deal with obesity must give primacy to the social determinants of obesity for a chance to make a real difference. Some key recommendations of the committee report, which I completely support, include:
Establish a National Obesity Taskforce
The Taskforce would support families and communities to build on cultural practices that enhance healthy eating and well-being. The Taskforce would be funded to develop and oversee the multi-strategy, community-based prevention programs in partnership with communities.
Introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages
The objectives of the sugar tax are to reduce consumption, improve public health and accelerate reformulation of products.
Restrict junk food and drink advertising on free-to-air television until 9pm
Children should be protected from junk food advertising deliberately targeted at them. This should be enforced if Free TV Australia fails to voluntarily enforce this measure.
The current approach of making obesity an education and individual responsibility problem has failed. The current approach further ingrains language of stigma and blame and ignores social and economic disadvantage. By continuing that approach we risk chasing our tails instead of examining underlying social and environmental conditions that produce obesity.
Unfortunately, neither major party has demonstrated sufficient leadership on this issue. They have both rejected the findings and recommendations of the final report and in doing so rejected a great opportunity for evidence-based policy-making.
Nevertheless, I will continue to advocate for the social determinants of obesity to be put at the forefront of the next government’s approach to the obesity epidemic, which I believe gives us the best chance for success.
Actions So Far