Calls for urgent State Government action following alarming new obesity report

Posted 15 May 2020.

Junk food ad near Freshwater Primary School

Cancer Council WA and Telethon Kids Institute are repeating their call on the WA Government to urgently implement a ban on junk food advertising on government property, including public transport, following the release of a new report that estimates the cost of obesity in WA will sky rocket to $610m by 2026.

Cancer Council WA CEO Ashley Reid said the report ‘The Burden and Cost of Excess Body Mass in Western Australian Adults and Children' released today by the Department of Health, indicates that there has never been a more urgent time to address the rise in obesity in Western Australia.

"In addition to the burden the WA health system is currently facing, the report presents some damning statistics on the impact of obesity on the heath system in the future if urgent strategies aren't implemented to prevent WA children from becoming overweight or obese adults," Mr Reid said, "Given that two thirds of WA adults aged 16-years-old and over are above a healthy weight and nearly half are not active enough1, these results show we have the potential to prevent a significant number of cancers and other chronic diseases in WA and save thousands of lives."

Mr Reid said banning junk food advertising on government assets must be urgently enforced as it undermines the government's preventive health priorities.

"While we commend the WA Government for showing leadership in funding the LiveLighter® campaign and spearheading the development of a national obesity strategy, it must now also implement recommendations that have been made in both the WA Preventive Health Summit recommendations and the Final Report of the Sustainable Health Review, particularly the strong recommendation to ban junk food advertising on its property," he said.

"There is huge public support for getting junk food off public transport, with a Cancer Council survey conducted late in 2019 showing that 72 per cent of WA adults supported such a move.

"This is a quick and simple move; WA has already shown leadership in Australia by restricting alcohol advertising on public transport, so there is no reason why they can't extend this to junk food."

Telethon Kids Institute Director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, reiterated that the WA Government must continue to invest in mass media campaigns like LiveLighter® that target adults, but must also urgently implement strong public policy that restricts the promotion of junk food to kids.

"Studies have shown that kids' exposure to unhealthy advertising is directly linked to an increase in kilojoule consumption2, which illustrates just how powerful advertising is, and restricting this advertising would be enormously effective to protect WA kids," Professor Carapetis said.

"We also know from research that Telethon Kids Institute is about to release in partnership with Cancer Council WA, that outdoor junk food advertising on billboards and bus stops is heavily clustered around areas of low socioeconomic status, schools and public transport routes, because junk food companies know that this is an effective way to boost sales and recruit their teenage customers.

"We must, as a community, do more to support families, and to ensure kids are growing up in healthy environments where they are not bombarded with junk food advertising, and the Government can do this right now by banning this advertising from its property.

"It's too simplistic to suggest that weight and health behaviours are a matter of personal choice. The statistics indicate that it's clearly not that easy. The causes run much deeper.

"If we don't act now, we are going to see a generation of kids grow up who will not live as long as their parents."

Background

  • Research has shown that 13 types of cancer are more common in people who are above a healthy weight, including cancers of the oesophagus, breast, liver,
  • gallbladder, kidney, bowel, multiple myeloma, meningioma, thyroid, gastric cardia, pancreas, ovaries and uterus.
  • Currently in WA, just over one-quarter (26.3%) of children are overweight or obese.
  • A ban on unhealthy food and drink promotions on all state premises is one of the recommendations in the Sustainable Health Review Final Report released by the
  • State Government in 2019 but so far little progress has been made on this.
  • In WA, there are currently no regulations restricting advertising of unhealthy food around schools.
  • Consumption of unhealthy food and sugary drinks increases toxic fat and puts people at risk of 13 types of cancer type II diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases.
  • LiveLighter is funded by the WA Department of Health, and delivered by Cancer Council WA.
  • More information is available via the LiveLighter website about how to make small lifestyle changes to improve people's health.

1 National Health Survey (ABS) Australian Bureau of Statistics. National health survey results 2017-18. ABS 2018, cat No. 4364.0.55.001
2 orld Cancer Research Fund (2020), Building momentum: wcrf.org/int/blog/articles/2020/01/protecting-children-unhealthy-food-human-rights

Found in:  News - 2020 | View all news