Local medical practitioners support call for sugary drinks tax to tackle obesity and preventable disease

CLiaison's picture March 22, 2017


GP Dr Dale Ford and Surgeon Mr Stephen Clifforth support GenR8 Change and WDHS calls for a sugary drinks tax

Local GP Dr Dale Ford and Surgeon Mr Stephen Clifforth say they can’t understand why there isn’t more of a public outcry over preventable disease in this country.

Dr Ford says every day he sees people who are dying or who have had loved ones die far too early from heart disease, complications of Type 2 Diabetes or other preventable conditions.

“We are losing MCG’s full of people every year in Australia, people are just silently dying from these conditions and we are saying and doing very little,” Dr Ford said.

Both Dr Ford and Mr Clifforth are GenR8 Change Ambassadors and support recent calls by GenR8 Change and Western District Health Service (WDHS) to introduce a sugary drinks tax, to address rising levels of overweight and obesity across the country.

Dr Ford is part of the nationwide Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) think tank. Funded by retired entrepreneur and advertising guru Harold Mitchell, the group is a national collaboration of Australia's leading chronic disease experts.

Together they have developed ten priority policy actions for the federal government to focus on, for a healthy Australia by 2025. Dr Ford says the top two priorities are to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and to protect children and young people from unhealthy food and beverage marketing, so a sugary drinks tax is something he fully supports.

“What we are seeing is that education alone is not working. We need to put in place measures that support people to be healthier, because as we have seen with other public health issues, behaviour change is complex and difficult,” Dr Ford said.

Mr Clifforth says he believes that being overweight has been normalised in our society, despite knowledge that once a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 27, life expectancy decreases.

“I’m a weight loss surgeon, so I see many people who are overweight and unwell, and they often tell me that they aren’t well supported to lose weight by their peers or community.

This is an epidemic, it’s not only killing us, but the health dollar as well and we must act to address it at a structural level.

Smoking and tobacco regulatory changes weren’t popular when they were first made either, but they’ve had a dramatic effect on smoking rates in Australia.

If we want to reduce suffering and save lives it’s not just about telling people to lose weight, we have to look at higher level change and interventions to make a real difference," Mr Clifforth said.