As in all areas of health, lobby groups remain powerful despite evidence of harm. Advertising of junk food to kids is so pervasive it’s easy to not realise it’s happening. No wonder the good health messages are lost in the noise of everyday life.
Is one of the problems a lack of practice in eating mindfully?
Take the example of Japan. Their National School food or Shokuiko program became law in 2005 in response to the growing childhood obesity crisis in Japan. The program introduces pre-schoolers onwards to the importance of good nutrition, portion control, the importance of knowing the feeling of being full, mindful eating (not rushing and mouths closed please when chewing!), together with the communal experiencing of preparing and serving meals.
It’s 2019. Introducing such a program in Australian schools seems like a dream. As a past School Council President I have fought the fearful cries of reduced canteen profits by stopping the sale of donuts, sugary drinks, high salt foods etc.
While I somehow won the fight against iced tea, I lost the fight against slushies (?), hope is not lost.
As health professionals we can help our communities, our children (and ourselves), change health limiting behaviours and embrace the joy of food as a healthy, mindful experience.
Communities can work together to counteract unhealthy messages about lifestyle and diet. Changes at multiple levels of systems do have an impact. Government regulation, place-based initiatives and acting as champions where we work and play are all part of the solution. At Shared Vision for the Growing North, we 100% support the 8 action practical and evidence-based recommendations made to the Federal Government to address Australia’s Obesity problem.
Here are some place-based IDEAS FOR CHANGE (not evidence based yet!) that I’ve been thinking about that you might also be thinking about:
- ANTENATAL PROGRAMS – Obesity is inter generational. Data suggests 50% women enter pregnancy overweight or obese and gestational diabetes is on the rise. Where are the obesity busting messages at key ages & stages; at pregnancy test, at ultrasound visits? This is not about shaming women. It’s about informed choices.
- NEW RESIDENTS – a partnership between Council and Local Real estate agents healthy food options are added into new resident information packs or proximity to healthy foods and parks are promoted as selling features as much as train stations and schools.
- FAST FOOD & RESTAURANTS – How many kids meals have you ordered where your only option is deep fried? Seniors get the roast, kids get everything with chips. Imagine if fried, high salt, high sugar “kid’s meals” had to have health warning and advise that they are not suitable for children?
- GENERAL PRACTICE – Doctors weigh all children under 16yo at all visits as part of universal preventative health care and provide advice to parents about obesity prevention and reduction.
- EARLY YEARS – Maternal and Child health (MCH) childcare providers to be given training in talking to parents about overweight and obese children.
- INFANT FEEDING GUIDELINES & Australian nutrition guidelines to include mindful eating, link of nutritionally poor diets to obesity and include the environmental impact of food.
I am far from perfect. Hot chips are my weakness.