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Health professionals

The introduction of a new policy to restrict junk food advertising on State Government property could save the State Government close to $166 million dollars over 30 years in healthcare cost savings, according to a new report led by Deakin University, commissioned by Cancer Council WA and the Telethon Kids Institute.

Author of the research, Dr Jaithri Ananthapavan, who leads the Economics of Obesity team within Deakin Health Economics, said these findings provide evidence and a compelling rationale for the WA government to implement this policy.

“Previous research indicates that when we remove unhealthy food advertising from prominent places and high exposure locations such as sides of buses, train stations and billboards, there is a corresponding decrease in purchasing and consumption of these foods and drinks,” Dr Ananthapavan said.

“This new research suggests that over time, at a population level, these healthier diets correspond to a shift in body weight and fewer cases of diet and body weight related diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

“With less people in the health system and more people living healthy lives for longer, the net benefits to Western Australians is estimated to be $1.9 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

“This includes healthcare cost savings of $166 million and $1.8 billion from the value of health gains.

“It also includes some costs to government consisting of potentially lost revenue from unhealthy food advertising and staffing costs to develop and monitor the policy. However, these costs estimated to be approximately $27 million, is more than offset by the potential benefits.

“A policy restricting advertisements of unhealthy food and drinks on transport property owned by the WA government is likely to be excellent value-for-money.”

Cancer Council WA CEO, Ashley Reid, said the amount of junk food advertising in WA is undermining the collective efforts of our community to eat well, and doesn’t give the community a fair go.

“We commend the WA government for its policies to ensure healthy food and drinks are provided in WA schools and health services, and for its sustained investment in healthy lifestyle promotion and education programs,” Mr Reid said.

“However, now we need the WA government to take a strong leadership role in protecting the broader WA community from junk food advertising, and this new economic evaluation report shows that this policy is likely to be both health promoting and cost-saving in the longer term.

“The time for action is now. Transport for London has successfully removed advertisements for unhealthy food from its property, and an evaluation has shown it has made a difference to what people buy, without impacting on government ad revenue.

“We call on multiple ministers of the State Government to play their role in protecting the community 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.”