The epicentres of Australia’s obesity epidemic
A Parliamentary committee looking at obesity has recommended, among other things, Government-funded stomach stapling operations and a national fat register.
In all there’s 19 recommendations, including the obligatory education campaigns, further discussion of tax incentives, and better regulation of the weight loss industry. But much of it is small arms in the face of this marching army.
Take a 360 degree spin around this intersection in on the southern outskirts of Sydney to see what health authorities are really up against.
(Full props to the people on the bicycles, who will live long and healthy lives).
There’s fast-food enclaves like this all over the country and on certain days they’re like something out of a suburban noir film - people limited by poor transport, economic hardship and a lack of culinary education drowning in a vat of highly-saturated fat.
Which is why the really interesting recommendations from the committee have nothing to do with surgery and lard-arse league tables.
Recommendation 13 of the report is “that the Federal Government work with all levels of government and the private sector to develop nationally consistent urban planning guidelines, which focus on creating environments that encourage Australians to be healthy and active.”
But pedestrian-friendly suburbs means more than just decent footpaths and some green space. And its going to take more than the tax incentives discussed in Recommendation 10 to turn the lights green at intersections like the one above.
Chef Stephanie Alexander was on AM this morning making a different, but related point.
She’s set up a program, which the Committee examined, to teach primary school children to grow and cook their own food.
“I think that ignorance, and not being able to put a beautiful meal on the table for $10 for a family of four is because you don’t know how to handle raw ingredients,” Alexander said. “And I’m sorry sound so tough about this but I just believe it is the case.”
“We’re staring with the young, so they will be able to teach their children and they will live well themselves.”
She’s dead right. People who are intimidated by the fresh food section of the supermarket because no one ever taught them how to cook are going to find it sorely tempting to drag the kids to Red Rooster for dinner instead.
The “social marketing and education campaigns” contained in Recommendation 3 of the committee report are meaningless if they don’t include compulsory cooking classes for all high school students, regardless of where they live.
The Government might not be able to outlaw fast-food clusters, but they can help people who choose to escape them.
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