UOW's Dr Bridget Kelly in ``fat food`` fight

Political will: Dr Bridget Kelly will outline the research framework she developed to highlight the link between junk food advertising and childhood obesity, in order to get the policymakers' attention. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Political will: Dr Bridget Kelly will outline the research framework she developed to highlight the link between junk food advertising and childhood obesity, in order to get the policymakers' attention. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

University of Wollongong researcher Dr Bridget Kelly is leading a charge to combat the country's "fat food environment".

The public health dietitian will share her plans - and enlist community support - at a "Budding Ideas" event at the university's main campus on Monday.

Dr Kelly said junk food advertising was a major contributor to the escalating rates of obesity in Australia, with children particularly vulnerable to the messages.

"Junk food advertising and marketing shapes children's food preferences, their food habits and their life-long consumption patterns," she said.

"We know modern marketing uses a range of integrated and increasingly interactive tools - from product packaging and television and internet advertising through to sponsorship of sporting teams.

"The same sorts of products and campaigns are repeatedly shown to children, which makes these foods desirable and normalises them, when mostly they should be 'sometimes' or discretionary foods."

Dr Kelly said while there had long been calls for government regulations to protect children against this invasive food marketing, there had been "political inertia" in this area.

At the "ideas fest" at the university, she will outline the research framework she has developed to highlight the link between junk food advertising and childhood obesity, in order to get the policymakers' attention.

"We need to call on government to take a hard stance against the food industry, which lobbies hard against any kind of regulation," she said. "Restricting unhealthy food advertising at times when the greatest number of children are watching television and putting limitations on things like outdoor advertising around schools are good first steps.

"It is possible to get tough regulations in place but there has to be a real political will to do that.

"We can all be part of the call to action to influence that."

Safeguarding food security in the Pacific and finding a cure for motor neurone disease will be other topics led by researchers at the free community event on Monday from 4.30pm-7.30pm at UOW's Smart building.

Details at uow.edu.au/research/news/buddingideas.

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