Australians will support government initiatives to tackle obesity

3 Aug 2012

There is strong public support for the introduction of policy initiatives to support healthy eating. This is the finding from a study published in the August issue of Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

Participants were asked if they would support a number of food-related policy initiatives aimed at reducing obesity, such as food labelling, reformulation of processed foods, taxes and restrictions on unhealthy food marketing and sponsorship by fast food companies.

Co-author Jane Martin from Obesity Policy Coalition, said support was particularly strong for regulation of unhealthy food marketing that clearly targeted children.

"We know there is strong public support for restricting TV advertising at times when children are watching, but this research shows there's also clear support for other policy initiatives such as restricting marketing to children via email/ SMS or on websites aimed at kids," said Ms Martin.

"There is also a high level of support for using financial levers; 71% were in favour of increasing the price of unhealthy food to reduce the cost of healthy foods, and 69% were specifically in support of taxing sugary drinks to subsidise healthy foods," said Ms Martin.

Kilojoule labelling on menus such as the initiative being implemented in New South Wales received high public support and Ms Martin suggested this was a good policy option for state governments.

"But there was less support for initiatives which had perceived direct benefits for children such as sponsorship of online tutoring programs and children's sporting activities," Ms Martin said.

"Participants from lower socioeconomic areas were less likely to favour regulation, but were more supportive of a tax if the funds were used to subsidise the cost of healthy foods rather than to subsidise health programs.

"Since 1990, the prevalence of overweight and obese adults has risen from 37% to 61%.

"This study has found that Australians are aware of the need to make changes that will support healthier eating and are generally supportive of them."