Technical Paper 1:
Obesity in Australia: a need for urgent action

Addendum for October 2008 to June 2009

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Table of contents

In October 2008, the National Preventative Health Taskforce released its Discussion Paper,[1] with three accompanying technical papers on obesity,[2] tobacco[3] and alcohol.[4] Since then, a range of key reports, research and policy documents have been released which are relevant to policies proposed in the Taskforce’s reports.

This addendum summarises the major studies and developments since October 2008 considered relevant to the Taskforce’s work on obesity, and includes updates and additional evidence on potential initiatives. For example, additional evidence is provided on the link between sedentary behaviour and chronic disease, and the need to ensure strategies to reduce sedentary behaviour are part of an obesity prevention approach.

Major developments in Australia have included the release of the House of Representative’s Inquiry into Obesity. Their report, ‘Weighing it Up’, released in May 2009, complements the National Preventative Health Taskforce process. The report has made general recommendations on the role of governments, industry, individuals and the community, and has provided a platform for the sharing of ideas, views and stories from a wide range of stakeholders. Their recommendations are consistent with the strategic actions outlined in the Taskforce’s National Preventative Health Strategy.[5]

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs released its report on the Protecting Children from Junk Food Advertising (Broadcast Amendment) Bill 2008 in December 2008. The Committee stated that they considered it was premature to bring forward legislative changes to food and beverage advertising whilst the National Preventative Health Taskforce was developing a national strategy and before the industry’s voluntary initiatives had been assessed. They also referred their report and the information received by the Committee to the Taskforce.[6]
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Internationally, a number of countries and jurisdictions are recognising the urgency of the obesity situation and moving to address the causes of overweight and obesity. The California Department of Health Services (CDHS), for example, released its Obesity Prevention Plan in 2006, detailing strategies for action and outlining responsibilities for state and local government, employers, healthcare insurers and providers, families, schools, the food and beverage industry, and entertainment and professional sports. The development of the strategic plan to guide a statewide response to the obesity crisis was mandated by legislation, under the 2005 Budget Act. The plan’s strategic actions are organised under four goals:

  • Ensure state-level leadership and coordination that reaches into communities across the state.
  • Create a statewide public education campaign that frames healthy eating and active living as California living.
  • Support local assistance grants and implement multi-sectoral policy strategies to create healthy eating and active living community environments.
  • Create and implement a statewide tracking and evaluation system.[7]
Another report recently released in the United States was ‘Reversing Obesity in New York City: An action plan for reducing the promotion and accessibility of unhealthy food’. This report was prepared by the City University of New York Campaign Against Diabetes and the Public Health Association of New York, and is a document intended to educate and to spark debate on food policy issues in New York.[8]

Authorities in the United Kingdom continued to release reports on their comprehensive approach to obesity prevention and control, and updates on these initiatives are reported later in this addendum.

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