Oral Presentation ANZOS Annual Scientific Meeting 2021

Public support for obesity prevention policies in Western Australia (#26)

Lauren Humphreys 1 , Abbie-Clare Vidler 2 , Tegan Nuss 3 , Gina L Ambrosini 4 , Ciara O'Flaherty 4 , Helen Dixon 3 , Belinda Morley 3
  1. Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate, Public and Aboriginal Health Division, WA Department Of Health, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. Cancer Council WA, Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
  3. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate, Public and Aboriginal Health Division, WA Department Of Health, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

There is a strong imperative for government interventions to reduce obesity rates.1-3 While education campaigns form a critical part of a comprehensive obesity prevention strategy, regulatory approaches to create supportive environments for obesity prevention are likely to bring about larger, more equitable population health improvements.4 However, implementing regulatory approaches requires political support, which is often lacking.4-6 As public support has the potential to influence political decision-making, this study explored trends in support for government policies in WA using data from evaluation surveys of a healthy lifestyle campaign conducted between 2012 and 2019.

The LiveLighter® education campaign encourages and supports WA adults and their families to make healthier dietary choices, be more active, achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Independent evaluations of each campaign wave were conducted between 2012-2019 using cross-sectional surveys of adults aged 25-49 years, including questions on support for nutrition policies. The sample (N=10,280) was selected using random digit dialling (RDD) for all surveys except 2019 (50% RDD and 50% list sample) and surveyed using computer-assisted telephone interviews.

Overall, all nutrition policies were supported by a majority (62.3%-95.4%). Support was particularly high among women, people in a healthy weight range, and those who had completed high school. Support for regulation was high compared to other studies.7 In 2019, approximately 65.1% of WA adults supported introducing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax, markedly higher than reported in a recent international review.7 Between 2012 and 2016, support increased significantly for ‘changing regulations to ensure consistent food labelling to help consumers make healthy choices’ (90.7% cf. 95.4%).  

Campaigns and advocacy efforts from the LiveLighter® campaign may have contributed to higher support and increases in support for stronger nutrition policies in WA since 2012. These findings suggest there is substantial public support for regulatory action on obesity prevention in the WA community.  

  1. Beswick A, Ambrosini G, Radomiljac A, Tomlin S, Chapman A, Matcevic J, et al. The burden and cost of excess body mass in Western Australian adults and children. Perth, Western Australia: WA Department of Health; 2020.
  2. Western Australian Department of Health. Western Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015 - Contribution of risk factors to burden. Perth, Western Australia: Department of Health WA; 2020.
  3. Western Australian Department of Health. Health and Wellbeing of Adults in Western Australia 2019, Overview and Trends. Perth, Western Australia: Department of Health; 2020.
  4. Sacks G, Robinson E. Policies for tackling obesity and creating healthier food environments: 2019 progress update, Australian governments. Melbourne, Victoria Deakin University; 2019.
  5. Swinburn B, Wood A. Progress on obesity prevention over 20 years in Australia and New Zealand. Obesity Reviews. 2013;14(S2):60-8.
  6. Obesity Policy Coalition. Obesity in Australia: A decade of inaction. 2020.
  7. Eykelenboom M, van Stralen MM, Olthof MR, Schoonmade LJ, Steenhuis IHM, Renders CM. Political and public acceptability of a sugar-sweetened beverages tax: a mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019;16(1):78.