August 26, 2009 - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd handpicked the National Preventative Health Task Force last year. The mention of the task force was to provide evidence-based advice to governments and health providers on preventative health programs and strategies, focusing on the burden of chronic disease currently caused by obesity, tobacco and the excessive consumption of alcohol.
On July 5, 2009 we reported - that the federal government was currently analyzing a series of recommendations provided by the task force.
A report from the task force found the social costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse had risen to $56.1 billion.
Last night, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon declined to comment on the secret report. The task force proposals, in a report to the federal government, also include:
- cash incentives or vouchers to encourage people in poorer communities to eat healthy food;
- a "health compact" between the government and the food industry for cuts in the levels of salt, sugar and fat and to improve the nutritional value in everyday foods;
- a $5 increase in the price of an average packet of 30 cigarettes; the aim is to cut the numbers of people smoking from 2.9 million, within a decade. (The price of cigarettes would rise by A$5 to A$20 for a pack of 30 cigarettes.)
- an end to cigarette promotions inside shops;
- stricter controls on licensing hours and alcohol advertising;
Australia: the healthiest country by 2020 prepared by the National Preventative Health Task Force 2008..
Measures on alcohol are designed to cut alcohol abuse levels by 30 per cent within 10 years, News Limited says.
The taskforce's report did not set out targets or a time frame for cuts to fat, salt and sugar in foods.
A total ban on alcohol sponsorship associated with sport and an end to alcohol advertising on the internet and in youth magazines. An alcohol sponsorship ban could cost sports up to $300 million a year collectively in lost revenue.
The task force recommended a "health compact" between government and the $70 billion food sector aimed at improving the nutritional value of everyday supermarket items.
The government will face pressure to avoid big tax hikes on alcohol and tobacco that would hit the working poor.
References: Experts call for coupons to encourage healthy eating by Steve Lewis, The Daily Telegraph, 8/27/2009; Plan proposes booze, cigarette tax hikes, Australian News, 8/27/2009.
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