Targeting the food culprits in childhood obesity

Deciding on what constitutes a “problem” food will be the focus of discussion this week, (27 February) as health experts convene in Brisbane to help tackle the difficult issue of childhood obesity.

Comprising a range of nutritionists, doctors and health economists, and led by Griffith’s Dr Tracy Comans (pictured), and Professors Elizabeth Kendall and Andrew Hills, the ‘Early childhood expert panel on nutrition and obesity prevention’ will examine the complex question of what exactly is the junk food that should be targeted.

“Foods such as dried potatoes, cakes, muffins and slices, potato crisps, snacks and sweet biscuits have contributed to around 35 per cent of overall energy intake in 2-16 year olds,
according to the 2007 National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey,” said Dr Comans.

“Spiralling out of control”

“For decades now, obesity rates have been spiralling out of control and are particularly prevalent in the early childhood years. We know that the key to dealing with the problem
is prevention and this means targeting parents’ food preferences with interventions such as taxation, supermarket availability and advertising and marketing.

“Two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight; 5-8% of kids starting school are already obese and the cost to our health system in tax dollars is huge.
“Ultimately the question comes back to, ‘are we happy to carry the cost?’

“We need to start looking beyond blaming individuals and toward the structural things in our society. Are we okay with junk food being cheaper and easier to buy than good quality
food?” said Dr Comans.

Aided by a $460,000 Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) grant, the research will later this year, extend to a citizens’ assembly of twenty people who will
discuss what, if anything, should be done to tax the foods which make children obese. Parents of children will also be surveyed to see if price will change choices.

The ‘Early childhood expert panel on nutrition and obesity prevention’ will be held on Wednesday 27 February at Brisbane’s Novotel Hotel. Media are welcome to attend.


TIME: Panel event 10-2pm, with media summary and QandA between 2.15pm and 3pm.
LOCATION: Brisbane Airport Novotel, 6-8 The Circuit, Brisbane Airport QLD 4007