Technical Paper 1:
Obesity in Australia: a need for urgent action
In October 2008, the National Preventative Health Taskforce released its Discussion Paper, with three accompanying technical papers on obesity, tobacco and alcohol. 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.
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.
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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: