Australia being left behind in fight against obesity
A lack of government action has left Australia lagging behind other nations in the fight against obesity, a scathing new report has found
READING LEVEL: ORANGE
Australia is “going backwards” in its fight against obesity with “almost no progress” being made on any healthy eating initiative* in the past five years.
That is the assessment of a scathing* report that slams the former federal government for a lack of action on obesity, while other countries have powered on with new policies to tackle the crisis.
“There has been almost no progress since we did the first report in 2017,” said Associate Professor Gary Sacks, lead researcher from the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University.
“The lack of policy implementation* compared to other countries means Australia is going backwards and it all comes down to a lack of government leadership.”
Unhealthy diets and obesity are the leading contributors to poor health and chronic* disease. Dr Sacks said two in three Australian adults and one in four children were overweight or obese in 2017 but he expected that figure to have “skyrocketed” since.
“I expect rates are much worse than ever before, based on data from NZ and the UK which show obesity rates skyrocketed during Covid,” he said.
“But we actually don’t know what the obesity rate is right now because the government hasn’t implemented one of our key recommendations to collect this data more than once a decade.
“We are sleepwalking into a public health crisis.”
Dr Sacks said other countries had “taken quite strong steps”.
“They’ve seen the evidence for action and they’re taking action, and yet the Australian government has not prioritised* obesity prevention and we are now significantly lagging* behind,” he said.
It is estimated that dealing with overweight and obesity costs Australia more than $56 billion each year.
“It has a massive financial implication to the health system and to the economy,” Dr Sacks said.
“We’ve got a whole mountain of evidence to show that something like a sugary drinks tax, not only does it raise money for the government, but it saves billions of dollars in health care costs.
“So the only people who suffer from such a tax is the food industry. And so I guess it’s their lobbying that’s holding sway* of government.
“The government has chosen to listen to the food industry rather than the evidence from public health. It’s so disappointing … we’re really dragging our heels.”
Dr Sacks said the biggest three priorities were restricting the marketing of junk food to children, a tax on sugary drinks and improvements to food labelling.
He highlighted the UK recently banning junk food advertising on TV before 9pm and Canada putting warning labels on foods high in sugar, sodium* or saturated fat as “really strong action.”
- initiative: new idea or way to achieve a goal or solve a problem
- scathing: extremely critical
- policy implementation: the process of putting plans and decisions into action
- chronic: lasting or happening again and again for a long time
- prioritised: treated something as very or most important
- lagging: falling or staying behind
- sway: control or influence
- sodium: a mineral found in many foods and that is used to make salt
- What progress has Australia made on tackling obesity in the past five years?
- Where is Associate Professor Gary Sacks from?
- What proportion of adults and children are overweight or obese, according to Dr Sacks?
- How much money does dealing with overweight and obesity cost Australia each year?
- What does Dr Sacks say the three biggest priorities should be?
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Create an infographic to effectively communicate the key pieces of data from this news story – the number of overweight or obese Australian adults and children (as of the 2017 study) and the cost of this to Australia.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Maths; Health and Physical Education
Canada has committed to putting warning labels on foods high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat. Draw a picture of what you think a similar type of label might look like on Australian foods. How will you make the warning stand out and help consumers to rethink their choices?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education
To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.
- What is the main topic or idea?
- What is an important or interesting fact?
- Who was involved (people or places)?
Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific and well punctuated.