The Gillard Goverment’s announcement that the Labor government will not be introducing the junk food tax begs the question whether the government is truly taking this issue seriously or will they merely commission another report to confirm what we already know.
One such investigation to improves the country health, in particular managing and reducing the countries growing obesity rate is the report generated from the Preventative Health Task Force that recommended introducing a tax on energy dense foods or commonly referred to as junk food.
This comes at a time when childhood obesity is at epidemic levels with the recent report into Child Development and Play commissioned by homeware’s giant Ikea found that a disturbing 66% watch more than four hours of TV per day.
A similar report from the US from the Journal of pediatrics similarity found 66% of preschoolers viewed more than two hours per day of content from a TV or computer screen.
Unfortunately implementing strategies and policies which at a the minimum stop the obesity rate let alone reduce the percentage of children overweight or obese seems to be weighted down by bureaucracy and the effects it will have on the food manufacturers and distribution landscape.
While childhood obesity, or more specifically obesity for the general population is a complex issue, we need to be a cohesive approach from not only government, but the educational providers, parents and media companies.
The key areas that need to be addressed but may prove to be unpopular are:
1.Introducing a junk food tax
2.Restricting marketing of junk food to children through all types of electronic and printed media
3.Food labeling laws to remove misleading and confusing packaging
4.Changing the school canteen menu to exclude food & beverages that are high is salt, sugar and fat, limiting processed foods and supplying fresh fruit while encouraging the consumption of tap water
5.Subsidies for healthier foods at day care centres, pre school and primary schools
6.Parents limiting sedentary behavior such as watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet, talking on mobile phones, sending sms and watching DVD or streamed content from the web
7.Stopping the sponsorship of any event that is primarily attended by or marketed to children by junk food companies
8.Programs to increase childhood exercise
9.Educating children about the benefits of healthy eating
10.Stopping the association of brand ambassadors with junk food
While there seems to be a genuine government interest in tackling childhood obesity, we need to see action rather than debate or the commissioning of more reports, or reports that analysis all the existing reports.
If this situation is allowed to continue unabated, we will have a generation of children with Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease dying before there parents.