A new report by researchers at The University of Western Australia has called for the introduction of mandatory health warnings on junk food to address Australia’s growing obesity crisis.
Funded by Healthway, the report also recommended limiting access to fast-food outlets, making the health star rating system compulsory and banning junk food advertising on public transport and during daytime TV.
Associate Professor Meredith Blake, Dr Marilyn Bromberg, Stephanie Parnell and William Conti from UWA’s Law school examined how an “obesity management policy” could be created through changes to State and Federal legislation.
They recommended that Australia’s health star rating scheme, which has been in place since 2014 and is currently opt-in, be made compulsory and expanded to cover menu items in fast-food restaurants.
The UWA report also recommended mandatory health warnings be placed on junk food, similar to those on cigarette packets, to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
Report co-author, Dr Bromberg said the idea of those warnings being accompanied by shocking imagery, like the graphic photos on cigarette packs, was necessary to help change behaviours.
“Something visual would probably be helpful because it has more of an impact,” Dr Bromberg said.
“We need to protect people. Obesity is a huge problem, and sometimes you need to put people’s health ahead of making money.”
Four UWA researchers were awarded more than $700,000 in Healthway Research Grants to undertake research that would help to achieve positive health outcomes in the community.
Dr Julie Ji from UWA’s School of Psychological Science was awarded a Health Promotion Intervention Research Grant to develop an online intervention program to boost psychological and behavioural resilience in young people during and after pandemics.
Dr Amy Finlay-Jones from UWA and Telethon Kids Institute, received an Exploratory Research Grant to develop an online program to promote mental health online using a positive psychology framework.
Dr Jones will also co-design a community mindfulness and compassion-based program to support the wellbeing of Aboriginal workers and the community members they engage with.
Professor Linda Slack-Smith from the School of Population and Global Health will use her Exploratory Research Grant to raise the profile for Aboriginal families on the impact of high sugar consumption on their young children’s health and what the alternatives are.
Associate Professor Judith Katzenellenbogen from the School of Population and Global Health will lead a two-way approach to health promotion to increase WA Aboriginal research capacity and address community health priorities, initially in the South West region.