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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3192 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

Therefore, the community will need to have a rethink on the impact of television, given the rapidly growing problem of childhood obesity. The community and, indeed, government need to have a rethink on the comprehensive approach to standards in school, as I have pointed out, as well as take a look at the impact on health assessments and standards with respect to television advertising. Mr Speaker, to that end, I support the motion and I commend the principle that has been outlined.

MS DUNDAS (10.47): I thank Ms Gallagher for bringing to the attention of the Assembly this motion regarding the effects of advertising on children. I would like to talk about the effect of TV advertising on the mental health of our young people, particularly its links to both anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Some research has been done in recent years on the effects of advertising on stereotyping body image. The figure for the exposure of children to advertising is amazing, with the average child watching about 21/2 hours of television a day, equalling between 22,000 and 28,000 ads per year. A number of studies have shown a marked link between eating disorders and television.

The June 2002 edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry reported a study by Dr Anne Becker, representing the first known investigation of television's impact on eating disorders in a small-scale indigenous society undergoing rapid change. In effect, the number of girls who said that they had induced themselves to vomit to control their weight went from zero to 11.3 per cent in just over three years. Two studies by South Australia's Flinders University published this year also showed that television advertising featuring idealised thinness negatively affected both the mood and the body image of adolescent girls, with those in the 13 to 15-year age group being most affected. Those are just three of many studies linking advertising to body image and eating disorders.

There is also debate in the medical literature as to the problem of child obesity and its relationship to TV advertising. The Garvan Institute has done some studies into the genetic links of obesity. Whitaker, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, provided evidence that the level of childhood obesity in early childhood does not appear to be linked to adult obesity and, further, that children with obese parents run more than double the risk of adult obesity.

Mr Speaker, it is true that the rates of both child obesity and eating disorders are going up, so healthy weight and high self-esteem must be the goal. Parental supervision of TV viewing, valuing children for whom they are, involving them in healthy activities and leading by example all seem to do much to help promote healthy weight and the high self-esteem that we are aiming for. I am not certain that regulating advertising would put an end to eating disorders or child obesity, but that would be something for the Health Committee to investigate under this motion.


(10.50): As chair of the Health Committee, I welcome this motion from Ms Gallagher. We have already received evidence from particularly young people on junk food. Also, they are interested in knowing why it is that certain additives that have a stimulant effect or whatever are allowed in foods, particularly in drinks. From recollection, it was raised that young people are very curious about why our society continually condones the promotion of substances which are unhealthy for them. That

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