Saturday 7 October 2017
In my view the common good should always take precedence over ideology. A case in point is the amount of sugar fat and salt we consume. Common sense suggests that if the government legislated to lower the amount of these substances in processed food we would end up with a healthier society with less financial pressure on the health system.
However, political ideology would have it that governments have no right to tell the public how much of theses substances people they can consume. If that is correct then society must also accept the bill.
For me it’s a no brainer. The common good should come first. Why should my taxes pay for the unhealthy lifestyle of others. If lives can be saved, they should be. Political philosophy shouldn’t play any part.
How About a Fat Policy That Saves Lives and Money?
FAT, SUGAR and SALT are the major contributors to obesity heart disease and many other health problems. These three ingredients kill more people than tobacco and alcohol combined. All three are found in fast and packaged food. In Australia obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Governments continually tell us about the spiralling costs of our health system and not to far into the future health will take up the largest percentage of the budget. If science tells us that these three ingredients are killing us at an alarming rate you would think it was only a matter of common sense to at least reduce the amount we digest.
Just to digress, I recently said to my daughter when one of her children was drinking a can of soft drink.
“Would you sit the child down and pour 13 teaspoons of sugar into his mouth?”
“Of course not,” she answered.
“That’s the amount of sugar in the can,” I responded.
A quote of mine (years old now) that leads into my argument.
It is only when the health bill of this nation reaches unaffordable proportions that the government will legislate for a reduction in the amount of salt, fat and sugar in processed and fast foods. But the conservatives will probably still oppose it on the basis of freedom of choice.
The Lancet in its latest publication reported on the “Most comprehensive global study to date shows obesity rates climbing worldwide.”
Here are some comments from the report.
The authors warn that the study presents a worrying picture of substantial rises in obesity rates across the world and say that concerted action is urgently needed to reverse this trend.
In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity prevalence have been in the USA (where roughly a third of the adult population are obese), Australia (where 28% of men and 30% of women are obese), and the UK (where around a quarter of the adult population are obese).
The prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood has increased remarkably in developed countries, from 17% in 1980 to 24% in 2013 in boys and from 16% to 23% in girls. Similarly, in developing countries, rates have risen from roughly 8% to 13% in both boys and girls over the three decades.
There can be no doubting that the science is saying that the intake of these substances needs to be dramatically reduced. That concerted action needs to be taken now.
We propose, because we believe we have a duty of care of our people, to regulate the amount of sugar, salt and fat that is inflicted on the community in processed and fast foods. We don’t propose an immediate reduction but rather a gradual withdrawal to reasonable limits, as advised by science, over a five-year period. This will reduce the obesity and the mortality it brings with it. And with it reduce the pressure on our health system. We cannot idly stand by while companies destroy the health of our nation and particularly that of our children who if the current trends continue will have shorter life expectancy than their parents.
The objections of course would be twofold. One would be from the conservatives who would argue that there is too much regulation already and it takes away freedom of choice. But what is wrong with regulation if it serves the common good-by making people healthier. I struggle to think of a part of my life that isn’t regulated be it crossing the road with traffic lights, building a house, using a credit card or driving a car. There are literally thousands of regulations that I have to obey.
Two of course is the industries that profit from obesity. The companies that promote the consumption of salt, sugar and fat. It’s a capitalistic profit argument versus the health of people.My point though is that if these substances were withdrawn over a period of time consumption wouldn’t necessarily decline because people would adjust to taste. Voluntary withdrawal is not likely to work.
Therefore, it is a political problem that requires a political solution with government willing to show leadership on behalf of the people. Government simply cannot afford to hide from the science as it has with climate change.
The report interestingly doesn’t talk about reduction by regulation in the way I have, seemingly because it sees the wall of capitalistic intervention as being to high although Professor Klim McPherson from Oxford University in the UK makes this observation, “An appropriate rebalancing of the primal needs of humans with food availability is essential, which would entail curtailing many aspects of production and marketing for food industries.
Obesity in Australia
Australia is today ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
Here is a round-up of Australian obesity facts & figures:
Of great concern is the health consequence to Indigenous Australians, who are today twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be obese and are ranked the fourth-highest population in the world that is likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes.
Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese.
More than five million Australians are obese
If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.
Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.
On the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20 our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.
More than 900,000 Australians suffer from diabetes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the fourth highest rate of Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, or NIDDM) in the world and are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.
Australians reporting heart, stroke and vascular diseases aged 15 years and over were much more likely to be classified as overweight or obese than those without heart stroke and vascular disease (65% compared with 51%).
Health disorders in children like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, hypertension and sleep apnea can be directly attributed to childhood obesity.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) account for approximately quarter of the burden of disease in Australia, and just under two-thirds of all deaths. These three diseases often occur together and share risk factors, such as physical inactivity, overweight and obesity and high blood pressure.The growing curse of inequality.
Did you know that 10 per cent of Australians now hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined? Let me put it another way. The richest one per cent of Australians are collectively wealthier than the poorest 60 per cent. Or try this 62 mega-rich people across the globe now hold as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest. Try this. Australia’s richest person was worth $18 billion, equaling the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Aussies.
Here’s some more from an Oxfam report titled “An Economy for the 1%“:
The world’s richest 1% now hold more wealth than the rest of the planet.
The richest 10 per cent of Australians hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined.
The gap between Australia’s richest and poorest is accelerating.
In 2015, the wealth of Australia’s richest 1% outstripped the poorest 60%.
Australia’s richest person is worth more than all of the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Australians.
Dr Szoke from Oxfam, the reports writer, said Australia must be part of a global solution to a global problem, and a renewed international focus on corporate tax avoidance would be critical to efforts to address wealth inequality.
So isn’t it odd that the Turnbull Government is contemplating increasing the rate of its consumer tax in order to give the same companies a reduction in the amount of tax they pay. Figure that out.
My thought for the day
“When talking about the cost of living I think people get confused. There is a big difference between the cost of living and cost of lifestyle. A recent survey found that 56% of those complaining about the cost of living had taken an overseas trip in the same year. And a further 52% had reduced dining out from three to two times a week.”