Attitude to food must change to avoid costs to public health system

Attitude to food must change to avoid costs to public health system

The news that kilojoule labelling laws are largely ignored or incomprehensible to many is a concerning find for those tackling Canberra’s weight problem.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released late last year showed the ACT had among the highest rates of overweight and obese adults of any metropolitan area.

As many as six in 10 Canberrans are considered to be overweight or obese.

While the mandatory kilojoule labelling laws for large franchises are not the only public health intervention in tackling the bulge the implications of the review are worrying.

The review presents a snapshot of community attitudes and one that indicates that knowing the numbers makes little difference in food choices for many.


If people are not concerned about the food choices they make based on publicly available information to assist them - and choose on taste only - it is unsurprising we are an overweight jurisdiction.

It is also reasonable to conclude that the small number who do pay attention to the kilojoule counts are likely to be more diet aware and conscious of making healthy food choices anyway.

ACT Health’s response to roll out consumer education campaigns to raise awareness of the kilojoule law is understandable but it is a concept that really should have been understood already.

It seems there is little that can be done to force people to take care of their health and some would argue it’s not the government’s job.

But the reality is that the taxpayer will be expected to pay for the long term effects of a overweight society on the public health system.

It is well known that being overweight and obese leads to medical complications and poorer health outcomes and that will cost the territory in future.

The ACT government has previously labelled obesity as the biggest preventative health challenge in the capital and has implemented schemes, including this one, in recent years to tackle it.

But despite the healthy messaging little seems to be changing.

Figures released last year by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health found that one in five Australian children was overweight or obese before starting school.

Canberra is not alone in this problem with data showing that nearly two-thirds of Australian adults (63 per cent) are overweight or obese.

This has steadily increased over the past 20 years - up from 57 per cent in 1995.

If people don’t take matters into their own hands this trend is not likely to change soon.