Assessing community knowledge, beliefs and attitudes about sugar-sweetened beverages, including responses to potential regulatory measures aimed at curbing obesity
Obesity is a preventable risk factor for many cancers, including, endometrial, oesophageal, renal, gallbladder, bowel and post-menopausal breast cancers. Given the difficulty in treating obesity, finding effective obesity prevention strategies is essential for public health. Sugar-sweetened beverages are increasingly singled out as a critical point for intervention because of; their large contribution to added sugar in the diet; the extra kilojoules they provide; and resulting overweight and obesity. Australia is a world leader in tobacco control and yet - despite being an overweight nation - lags behind other countries in policy responses to address obesity. As part of a comprehensive approach, health agencies are increasingly calling for regulatory measures to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as; taxes, marketing restrictions, restrictions on sponsoring children’s sports, and restrictions on sales in schools. Our research will provide unique and essential evidence to inform public health and public health policy directions.
What we aim to achieve
Our research will apply behavioural science and experience from tobacco control to develop evidence and policy responses related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. There is potential for such evidence and policies to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption across the population with substantial benefits for population weight and prevention of obesity-related cancers.
Our next steps and milestones
Our research has produced findings which show that a substantial proportion of parents and young people do not understand the harm associated with the high levels of consumption and in fact think that there are benefits, notably for children, which do not really exist. The findings of this research will be used to inform the development of health communication and messaging to help Australians understand the role of added sugars in the diets, the risks of obesity and future health consequences, and empower them to reduce their consumption and that of their children.
My message to supporters
Population and behavioural health research is an under-rated but critical area of research if we are to have any hope of reversing trends in obesity, and the cancers it causes. Funding from Cancer Council SA donors has been critical to commence this work in an emerging topical and important area of obesity prevention and cancer prevention. Cancer Council SA’s funding has allowed us to conduct research with young people, and parents of children about sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. If funded, the next component will enable us to develop health campaign messages which will be effective in helping parents and young people to understand the risks and to motivate behaviour change for healthy weight. Our research will inform strategies such as health policy measures which reduce marketing to children, it will assist the development of public education campaigns aimed at increasing the health of Australians and reducing the burden of preventable cancers.
What motivates me
I am motivated to reduce the impact of cancer. So much unnecessary pain could be avoided and so many cancers could be prevented. I am very keen to apply the knowledge and training I have in Psychology, Economics and Public Health, coupled with my previous professional experience, to help empower people to make informed choices and good choices for their health, and to help agencies such as Cancer Council SA advocate for evidence-based policies and Governments to work with good evidence to build societies which promote and enable cancer-preventing choices. I am also very motivated to help reduce the burden of the experience of cancer for people and am developing other research projects in this space.