December 20, 2012
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey show that more than 60 per cent of Australians are now overweight or obese. Around 25 per cent of Australia's population is obese and another 40 per cent is overweight. Dr Paul Jelfs from the ABS says men are more likely to be overweight or obese (70 per cent) than women (56 per cent) while one-quarter (25 per cent) of our children are overweight or obese.
Australia is an obese nation and this has consequences for public health, given the impact this will have on type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Some argue that there is a lack of political will l to tackle what has been called the obesity epidemic. That ignores the power of the food industry (food, beverage and advertising) to block reform (improving labelling, and tax and pricing strategies) in order to protect their economic interests. The dominant view in Canberra's political circles is that obesity results from the poor choices of individuals rather than an increasingly obesogenic environment.
What we have are social marketing campaigns, industry self-regulation and funding for school and community programs rather than reforms to to the current Australian food system. The powerful multinational food and beverage manufacturers, (“Big Food”), are strongly against taxes on unhealthy foods. Trade associations representing the food industry have campaigned vociferously to avoid these types of taxes and the introduction of traffic-light labelling on foods.