A new scorecard looking into policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments has found while the WA Government has received top marks for supporting the community to eat well and be active, it received poor results in its efforts to protect kids from junk food advertising.
The Food Policy Index, first developed in 2017 to benchmark Australian governments on their implementation of globally recommended policies to improve population diets, is being released in WA today.
Author of the report, Professor Gary Sacks from Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation, said there is widespread recognition that unhealthy diets and obesity are driven by food environments where unhealthy foods and drinks are readily available, heavily promoted, and often relatively cheap.
“Unhealthy eating habits and obesity are leading contributors to poor health outcomes in Australia, and are highly costly to individuals, communities, the health-care system and the economy,” Professor Sacks said.
“We now have a National Obesity Strategy with clear recommendations for improving food environments, but this has yet to result in meaningful changes on the ground. State governments must play their part in implementing actions in the strategy to reduce obesity rates.”.
Cancer Council WA Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said the amount of junk food advertising children are exposed to in WA is undermining the collective efforts as a community to eat well and give children a fair go in developing healthy eating practices.
“We commend the WA government for its policies to ensure healthy food and beverages are provided in WA schools and health services, and for its sustained investment in delivering the LiveLighter® campaign,” Ms Ledger said.
“However, now we need the WA government to take a strong leadership role in protecting children and the broader WA community from junk food advertising, as confirmed by this scorecard and in the Sustainable Health Review Final Report 2019.”
“Junk food advertising is wallpaper to children’s lives; it’s online when they connect with friends, while watching TV and their favourite sport with family – even on the buses they take to school.”
“The time for action is now.”
“While the WA government continues to allow unhealthy industries to use government property to promote and market unhealthy food and drinks the government sends a message that children’s health isn’t important.”
“We call on multiple ministers of the State Government to play their role in protecting children from the ongoing harmful exposure to junk food promotion by creating standards on the advertising it allows on its own property, such as sport stadiums and public transport.”
“This includes the Minsters for Transport, Local Government, and Sport and Recreation; this is not just a battle for Health.”
Report Recommendations for WA:
1. Restrict all advertising for unhealthy food and beverages (and related brands) in publicly owned or managed settings, including public transport infrastructure and in public spaces
2. Restrict the provision and promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages in government owned or managed sport and recreation venues, whilst supporting provision of healthy options
3. Amend the planning framework to make health and wellbeing an explicit priority in state planning, as a way to facilitate local governments limiting the placement / relative density of unhealthy food outlets while supporting healthy food outlets.
Scorecard media launch:
Date: Thursday 9 March 2023
Media interviews: 8.30 – 9.00am
Location: Claremont Football Club, 3 Davies Road, Claremont
Available for interview:
• Professor Gary Sacks – Deakin University
• Melissa Ledger – Cancer Council WA
• Jane Martin – Obesity Policy Coalition
The Food Policy Index (Food-EPI) Australia:
The Food Policy Index (Food-EPI) Australia initiative is an ongoing process to benchmark Australian governments (Commonwealth and States / Territories) on their progress in implementing globally recommended policies to improve population diets and address obesity. The goal of the initiative is help facilitate implementation of a comprehensive and cohesive set of actions.
Policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments: scorecard and priority recommendations for the Western Australian Government, March 2023. Sacks G, Mann D.
Published by Deakin University. 2023 available at foodpolicyindex.org.au.