From time to time when we’ve shared our thoughts supporting ideas such as banning sugary drinks in the workplace and in hospitals and imposing a sugar tax, in order to benefit community health, we’ve been met with some resistance.
A key argument against such steps is the loss of personal freedom / freedom of choice ie. “I should be able to make my own decisions about what I eat and drink.” We do agree that this is a compelling argument but we also believe that the marketing and discounting of various unhealthy foods or ‘junk foods’ has reached such a level that it can, for many of us, affect our choices on a subconscious (if not conscious) level. Have you ever wondered how you came home from the shops with a packet of chips or chocolate when you didn’t set out with them on your shopping list? Or why the lollipop dispenser at the supermarket has an opening at about the same height as your average toddler?
There’s no denying it. The advertising of junk food is everywhere – as you walk past the bus shelter, on the umbrellas by the local swimming pool or surf club, on the fridges at the petrol station, at the checkout of the local café etc. Our young children are even ‘rewarded’ for participation in sport and colouring-in competitions with vouchers for free or discounted icecreams, burgers and chips. And they’re targeted with ads while watching TV and movies, and even live sport. The list of ways junk food company messages infiltrate our community goes on and on, unfortunately.
And the reality is in the numbers. 2 in 3 Australian adults and 1 in 4 Australian kids are overweight or obese. This is despite the best efforts of many of us to eat well. Yes, we do recognise that eating is just one factor involved in health, obesity and type 2 diabetes (and we’re funding vital research to look for new ways to help reduce the rates of lifestyle-related diabetes) but it is a key one.
So, is helping people out a little through regulating the environment around us a bit more such a bad thing? We don’t think it is. It’s less about telling people (you!) what to do and more about leveling the playing field. It’s about signaling to companies that manufacture and sell foods that have little or no health benefits that they need to play fair. We can’t afford these businesses to just focus on the bottom line because it’s actually playing with our lives. Obesity Australia’s 2015 report, Obesity: Its impact on Australia and a case for action. No time to Weight 2*, shows that if current trends continue, there’ll be approximately 1.75 million deaths in people over the age of 20 years caused by diseases linked to overweight and obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, between 2011-2050. The devastation that will cause for Australian families is massive. And much of it can be prevented.
So, we’re asking you to have a think – are calls for companies to abide by stricter regulations relating to the marketing of unhealthy foods such a bad thing? And, do you think it’s about time these calls were acted on?
We’d love to hear your thoughts!