Limit sugar by more than tax: advocate

ADVOCATE: Australian sweet tooths take note, Jamie Oliver says tax on soft drinks and high-sugar foods is government's best weapon in the battle of bulge. Picture: AAP
ADVOCATE: Australian sweet tooths take note, Jamie Oliver says tax on soft drinks and high-sugar foods is government's best weapon in the battle of bulge. Picture: AAP

TACKLING Australia’s bulging obesity crisis needs a multi-pronged approach, a leading Ballarat youth health advocate says amid the renewed push for a national sugar tax.

YMCA Ballarat chief executive officer Kate Phillips said that like any complex health issue, trying to lower overweight and obesity rates needed a myriad of options – and the sugar tax was but one.

The organisation is set to expand its healthy kiosk offerings at pools it operates in the Pyrenees and Corangamite shires this summer in a continued push to change culture.

“Different strategies work for different parts of the community,” Ms Phillips said. “We fining limiting sugary beverages and foods can have a real impact on healthy living for children during the week...When we’re working with children and young people we take our responsibility for healthier living seriously.”

YMCA-operated pools in Avoca, Beaufort, Landsborough and Skipton were among those where sugary drinks were kept from sight last summer and found strong community support for the move.

Youth centres in Sebastopol and Wendouree and YMCA before and after-school care facilties also operate on the same philosophy, encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle.

“The aim is the development of life-long habits,” Ms Phillips said. “When serving food and drink options, we want it to still be delicious and nutritious. We want to show it can be easy, yummy and affordable.”

A coalition of 34 high-profile groups including the Cancer Council, Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne and the Stroke Foundation are calling on the federal government to establish obesity prevention as a national priority. The group is calling for a 20 per tax and a ban on unhealthy food advertising on free-to-air television during prime time viewing, from 5.30-9.30pm, when they say the greatest numbers of children are watching.

Almost one in seven Ballarat adults drink sugary drinks daily more with more than 60 per cent of Ballarat residents classed overweight or obese.