by ACN Policy Team
ACN is committed to representing the knowledge and expertise of our Members in policy development throughout the Australian health and aged care system. In this series we want to share what ACN is doing in the policy space with our Members and followers and how your contributions shape our messages to the many consultations that we get involved in.
As a key determinant of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer, obesity is globally a major health concern. In Australia, obesity related health issues cost the health system more than $21 billion annually with recent estimations suggesting more than one quarter (28%) of Australian children are overweight or obese.
The size and scope of the overweight and obesity burden makes a strong case for investing in prevention. Childhood overweight and obesity has been recognised as a priority in the WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NonCommunicable Disease 2013-2020 and recommendations have been provided to countries on ending childhood obesity.
Several attempts have been made or are underway to work at population scale to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in Australia, New Zealand and England. These population-level interventions begin by fostering a shared understanding of the systemic determinants of non-communicable disease and asking how existing systems can be strengthened or new systems created to better promote health and prevent disease.
Urgent action is needed to reverse the trend that is seeing increasing numbers of people who are overweight and obese. ACN endorses the following social interventions to help address obesity:
- Legislation to implement time-based restrictions on exposure of children (under 16 years of age) to unhealthy food and drink marketing on free-to-air television.
- Make adjustments to improve the Health Star Rating System, and make it mandatory.
- Developing and continue to fund comprehensive national active travel strategies to promote walking, cycling and the use of public transport.
- Funding high-impact, sustained public education campaigns to improve attitudes and behaviours around diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
- Establishing obesity prevention as a national priority with sustained funding, regular and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of key measures and regular reporting around target.
- Supporting, updating and monitoring comprehensive and consistent diet, physical activity and weight management national guidelines.
- Based on the available evidence, a tax on sugar sweetened beverages to deliver similar population weight benefits across socio-economic strata or greater benefits for lower socio-economic population groups.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-2015. Commonwealth of Australia. Canberra.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). Risk factors to health. Australian Government. Canberra. AIHW
Huffingtonpost (2017). Obesity-Related Disease Expected to Cost Australia $21 Billion. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/10/10/obesity-related-diseases-expected-to-cost-australia-21-billion_a_23238534/
 World Health Organisation (2013). Global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/94384/9789241506236_eng.pdf;jsessionid=10EBB1513A3A74CA6C0E41D0E61DC995?sequence=1