NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Obesity and the #sugartax : Barnaby Joyce on the merits of a sugary drinks tax

 sugartax

Amata was an alcohol-free community, but some years earlier its population of just under 400 people had been consuming 40,000 litres of soft drink annually.

The thing that I say in community meetings all the time is that, the reason we’re doing this is so that the young children now do not end up going down the same track of diabetes, kidney failure, dialysis machines and early death, which is the track that many, many people out here are on now,”

Mai Wiru, meaning good health, and managed by long-time community consultant John Tregenza.

The Sugar Trip on Australian Story  View HERE

” With most complex issues, you start somewhere.  You come up with evidence-informed policies and you try them out.  You rigorously evaluate their performance, and learn by doing.

But not with obesity.  “Complexity” is the new enemy of action.  Since the causes of obesity are complex, every “single” policy advanced in response can be dismissed as a dangerously simplistic solution to a complex problem.

Welcome to obesity, the problem we’re not allowed to start to fix.

Except with personal responsibility, of course.!!!

A tax on sugary drinks will get National Party politicians in trouble with sugar producers, and Liberal Party politicians in trouble with big food.

The real problem is that it might work.  Based on the experience of Mexico, a sugary drinks tax will very likely cause consumers to purchase fewer sugary drinks.

Despite batting it away, a tax on sugary drinks is on the public agenda, and it’s here to stay.  I don’t see the sugary drinks industry winning on this issue indefinitely.

Partly because Australian health researchers will keep it on the agenda.”

 Edited highlights from :   Sydney Health Law

sugar

 

“We need a national healthy weight strategy which includes a comprehensive approach to tackle overweight and obesity in all parts of Australia.

“While there’s no silver bullet for reducing overweight and obesity rates, there are key policies which we know can make a significant difference to the health of all Australians.”

The Obesity Policy Coalition recommends four key actions by government to address the obesity problem:

  1. Develop and implement a long-term, comprehensive, integrated strategy to address obesity.
  2. Take action to substantially reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing.
  3. Introduce a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and use the money raised to offer healthy food subsidies for people on low incomes and to support obesity prevention initiatives.
  4. Make the Health Star Rating System mandatory, to ensure it is displayed on all packaged food products.

The Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2014-15 report finds that in 2014-15:

  • The percentage of overweight or obese adults ranged from 53% in Northern Sydney to 73% in Country SA
  • Overweight and obesity rates were generally higher in regional PHN areas than in metropolitan PHN areas
  • After excluding adults who were overweight, the percentage of obese adults ranged from 16% in Central and Eastern Sydney to 38% in Country SA
  • The obesity rate was 25% or higher in 18 of the 28 PHN areas for which results were available.

Once more with feeling…Barnaby Joyce on the merits of a sugary drinks tax

When I looked up from marking exams and saw the look on Barnaby Joyce’s face, I just knew he was seeing red about the Grattan Institute’s proposal for a sugary drinks tax, levied at a rate of 40 cents per 100 grams of sugar.

The Grattan Institute report estimates that such a tax would reduce the consumption of sugary drinks by about 15% and generate up to half a billion dollars that could help to pay for a broad array of obesity-related programs.

Imagine!  A public health policy that fights obesity, diabetes and tooth decay AND generates revenue.

The National Party hate the idea. Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals, Barnaby Joyce told reporters: Pictured here with the Asst Minister for Rural Health Dr David Gillespie

barnaby

“If you want to deal with being overweight, here’s a rough suggestion: stop eating so much, and do a bit of exercise.  There’s two bits of handy advice and you get that for free.  The National Party will not be supporting a sugar tax”.

Well that’s what he said.

But here’s what I heard: “We know that obesity and diabetes are out of control.  But we have ideological objections to being part of the solution”.

The same day that Minister Joyce shared these thoughts with reporters, the Australian Food and Grocery Council issued a press release saying that it was seeking a “constructive response to obesity”.

“Obesity is a serious and complex public health issue with no single cause or quick-fix solution”, explained the AFGC, but “it is not beneficial to blame or tax a single component of the diet”.

Personal responsibility…the answer to obesity, traffic accidents, terrorism, Zika virus, perhaps everything?

In a limited sense, Barnaby Joyce is right.

The only cure for personal obesity is personal responsibility.

But personal responsibility has turned out to be a spectacularly poor solution to “societal obesity”.

By societal obesity, I am referring to the trend towards overweight and obesity that has arisen over the past few decades and now affects the majority of adult men and women (and more than one in four children).

Since each of us is an individual, and because we live in a culture that prizes individual autonomy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that individual effort, personal motivation, is the solution to the world’s ills.

But just as the global epidemics of obesity and diabetes were not caused by a catastrophic, global melt-down in personal responsibility, personal responsibility is equally unlikely to provide the magic solution.

That’s where public policies come in.

Governments know all this, but with the exception of tobacco control, they seem reluctant to apply their knowledge in the area of preventive health.

The fact is, from road traffic accidents to terrorism, smart governments:

  • acknowledge the complexity of the factors that contribute to societal problems;
  • They acknowledge that multiple interventions are needed, in many settings;
  • They acknowledge that possible solutions need to be trialled now, under conditions of uncertainty, instead of handing the problem to future generations.
  • They monitor the actions they take, because healthy public policy is a dynamic, ongoing process; and finally
  • They give a damn.  Meaning that they recognise they are accountable to the community for helping to solve difficult, societal problems, and for the performance of the public policies they administer.

Imagine if Australia’s government took that approach with obesity.

The debate about a sugary drinks tax is here to stay: it will never go away

A tax on sugary drinks will get National Party politicians in trouble with sugar producers, and Liberal Party politicians in trouble with big food.

The real problem is that it might work.  Based on the experience of Mexico, a sugary drinks tax will very likely cause consumers to purchase fewer sugary drinks.

Despite batting it away, a tax on sugary drinks is on the public agenda, and it’s here to stay.  I don’t see the sugary drinks industry winning on this issue indefinitely.

Partly because Australian health researchers will keep it on the agenda.

It will come back, and back.  Especially as evidence of its success accumulates overseas.

One conversation worth having is how revenues from a sugary drinks tax might support agricultural producers in rural Australia, helping to cushion them from the adverse effects (if any) of the tax and creating incentives for the production of a sustainable and healthy food supply.

That is simply one question worth considering during the process of developing a national nutrition policy (which we don’t currently have).

In the meantime, Australian health advocates need to broaden their base.

Advocacy for public policy action on obesity needs to become more closely integrated with advocacy on food security.   And advocacy in both areas needs to be linked more closely to action on reducing health inequalities.

But enough about all that.  You really came here for Barnaby, didn’t you?

OK, here he is:

The ATO is not a better solution than jumping in the pool and going for a swim. The ATO is not a better solution than reducing your portion size. So get yourself a robust chair and a heavy table and, halfway through the meal, put both hands on the table and just push back. That will help you lose weight.”

healthy-xmas

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