Cancer Council Queensland has called for renewed discussion on economic interventions to help overcome the obesity epidemic, following the release of new research by Bond University finding that many Queenslanders routinely choose junk foods because they are cheaper than healthy choices.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said ongoing research and cooperation across sectors was vital.
“Economic interventions, such as taxation, grants and subsidies can provide incentives and disincentives to help modify health behaviours relating to overweight and obesity, physical activity and nutrition,” Ms McMillan said.
“Economic interventions targeting nutrition are worth canvassing, with more research urgently needed to evaluate the most effective options.
“International investigations have considered measures such as portion-size pricing, incentives for food retailers, advertisers and consumers.
“While there is limited evidence currently available on the effectiveness of food taxes and subsidies in reducing overweight and obesity, and improving nutrition, all the available evidence suggests that taxation and subsidies resulting in non-trivial pricing changes can contribute to healthy consumption patterns, particularly for children and adolescents, and low socio-economic populations.
“For example, research shows that a 10% tax on unhealthy foods would be an effective and cost-effective preventive health intervention for Australians, with further research and careful modelling of the impact of food taxation and subsidy interventions across population groups required, particularly with reference to sustained behavioural changes.
“We would welcome joint action by the Federal and State Governments to examine the range of opportunities available to arrest Australia’s burgeoning obesity crisis,” she said.
Ms McMillan commended the Queensland Government for its initiative to introduce kilojoule menu labelling in fast food outlets.
“The expansion of menu labelling, and targeted regulation on the sale and marketing of unhealthy food to children must be a high priority.
“Queensland has the second highest rate of obesity nationally – around 26 per cent of Queensland children are overweight or obese, and 64 per cent of adults are overweight or obese.
“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases, including some cancers.
“Multi-faceted strategies, supporting those most at risk, are desperately required to tackle the obesity crisis and help make the healthy choice, the easy choice for all Queenslanders.”
Ms McMillan said consumers were easily influenced when shopping, and often shopped for specials.
“Data from our Everyday Health Survey showed that the most influential factor for one-third of Queenslanders when grocery shopping is price, which is further influenced by the placement of products,” she said.
“As a community we need to work together to ensure healthy options are affordable and placed strategically at check-outs and focal points in stores to encourage healthy choices.
“A healthy, balanced diet will improve short and long-term health and significantly reduce your risk of chronic diseases and some cancers.
“At least one-third of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes including eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight.”
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