Fat is rapidly becoming the biggest public health challenge Australia has to face, according to the president of the Public Health Association of Australia, Professor Mike Daube, who is also the deputy chairman of the government’s National Preventative Health Taskforce.
How carefully do you consider what you eat? Do you know the calorie count of the blueberry muffin and Gloria Jeans grande mocha latte you had for breakfast? What about the pizza you had for dinner last night? In NSW a new labelling law came into place on 1 February whereby fast food chains (with over 20 outlets) have to declare energy (kilojoule) content of all food sold.
It is a little like going out for dinner with the food police. Hard to tuck into your double cheeseburger claiming you didn’t know it was 440 calories worth of bread, meat and cheese when it is glaring at you from a neon billboard. Oh and would you like to know the fat content with that?
Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia and medical experts warn we’re about to be inundated by an avalanche of related health issues caused by the fact that too many Australians are extremely overweight.
So what’s the answer? Is it education? Food labelling? Food labelling laws are indeed set for a major overhaul with a review commissioned by federal, state and territory governments calling for simpler “traffic light” labelling on food packaging, with red, orange or green dots to show how healthy it is. Will that stop you from eating a bucket of chicken?
Or do we need a shock-value anti-obesity campaign in the spirit of the anti-smoking campaigns that have seen the rate of smoking decrease?
Here is an example of the kind of ads currently running in America:
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Recently Fairfax newspapers reported in part:
”There is no doubt that obesity is going to overtake smoking as the major killer for Australians,” AMA federal president Dr Andrew Pesce said. ”We have been campaigning against smoking for 30 years and are starting to see smoking rates decrease. Obesity is our next target.”
It wants a campaign modelled on New York City health department ads, which show diners drinking body fat and downing sachets of sugar. It warned just one sugary soft drink a day over a year could make a person up to five kilograms heavier and increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The AMA proposes ads that graphically show the damage excess fat does to the body, similar to anti-smoking commercials.
“The obesity crisis is not on its way – it is already here,” Professor Daube said. “What we have done about obesity is not working. This issue needs concentrated and determined action.”
What do you think will make a difference? Do you think there’s a place for tobacco-style shock ads to counteract obesity? Traffic-light food labelling? Or is a more holistic approach required?
Note: this is in no way an invitation to fat-bash. Please keep your comments as respectful, thoughtful and kind as they usually are.