This World Obesity Day, the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) is welcoming the launch of the National Obesity Strategy, which outlines a 10-year framework for action to prevent, manage and treat obesity and improve diets in Australia.
The strategy, launched today, focuses on three main ambitions for 2022–2032: creating a supportive, sustainable and healthy environment, empowering people to stay healthy, and enabling access to early intervention and supportive health care.
OPC Executive Manager, Jane Martin, welcomed the strategy’s release, saying it is a fundamental tool to guide the urgent action we need to address the range of factors contributing to obesity in Australia.
“All Australians should be able to live, work, learn, and play in environments that support positive health and wellbeing outcomes. The release of the National Obesity Strategy is an important step towards improving our food environments and supporting healthier living,” Ms Martin said.
“It sets the foundation for broad changes to the way food is produced, promoted, priced and sold in Australia, as well as changes to our physical environment. It also recognises the broad determinants of health that are beyond an individual’s control and extend beyond the health system. These systems changes are what we know is needed to protect and support the future health of Australians.
“The impact of the pandemic has shown us how crucial it is to build a healthy and resilient Australian population.
“Obesity is an urgent public health issue in Australia, with two thirds of adults and one in four children currently above a healthy weight, putting them at increased risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer later in life.
"A national strategy dedicated to turning this around is a great start and something that we’ve been calling for, for a long time. Now what we need to see is effective implementation of policies and programs for progress to be made and action to be taken sooner rather than later by all levels of government.”
Jane Martin said the plan includes strategies to reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food and drink marketing, considers policies in relation to the price of sugary drinks, and improvements to nutrition information.
“These strategies are areas where we need immediate change, but we must avoid placing too great a burden on individuals, when fundamentally we need to see broad, system-wide changes put in place to make it easy for Australians to live healthy, happy lives.
“Unhealthy food and drinks make up over a third of the daily energy intake for adults and even more for some children. This isn’t surprising when the processed food industry spends millions of dollars every year targeting Australian children in all aspects of their lives – airing three food ads every hour in children's peak TV viewing times and exposing children to almost 100 online promotions for unhealthy food every week. We need to see urgent action to protect children and their health from this constant exposure to unhealthy messaging.
“Other evidence-based strategies such as a health levy on manufacturers of sugary drinks and mandatory added sugar labelling on the Nutrition Information Panel are actions we can take now to improve diets and reduce obesity in Australia.”
The OPC recommends three key actions to be implemented as a priority of the National Obesity Strategy:
- Protect children from unhealthy food marketing
- Inform consumers about the harmful sugars in packaged foods
- Implement a health levy on manufacturers of sugary drinks to encourage reformulation and reduce consumption
Read the National Obesity Strategy 2022–2032