A new report that has been commissioned by the Australian government states that surgery for teenagers who are grossly obese, might be an cost effective option to control the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
The report also stated that to have found the various programs based in schools were cost-effective, but raised questions about the effectiveness of some. It is expected that many ministers for state who are in favour of restricting junk food advertising to children may also seize on the report to back their argument. It was also earlier reported that the reduction of television advertisements of junk food and soft drinks for children aged up to 14 years was extremely cost-effective.
The report has also taken the findings of restrictions on advertising with a bit of scepticism stating that it could, "likely to be effective." The health minister Bronwyn Pike has treated that finding with caution, stating that the findings are based on a research done in 1982, and had found improvements in weight reduction and fitness among children who were isolated from television, and therefore advertising when on a holiday camp.
The report has on the other hand accepted the fact that such restrictions were "currently politically unacceptable" due to the strong opposition from the Federal Government. It was also reported that the Prime Minister John Howard was accused recently towards restricting the state health ministers from discussing advertising regulations. The health ministers have now agreed to set up a committee to assess whether current regulations on advertising are properly functional or not.
Considered a last resort, 'Gastric banding', which is a surgical procedure that gives a sensation of fullness, has been reported as not being suitable for people who are only moderately overweight. Reports have indicated that some have to wait for years to have the surgery in a public hospital.
The committee that has been set up is likely to draw on the research, which is believed to be the first to assess the cost-effectiveness of ways to reduce childhood obesity. It is believed that according to the current statistics Australia now has the fastest growing rates among childhood obesity.
Announcing the results last week of a programme in Cola, where in 1800 children lost on average a kilogram and dropped three centimetres from their waistlines, the government explained that the program included convincing the local takeaway shops to cook using lower-fat oils, and enticing the children away from television. Other measures that are also being considered cost effective are family-based counselling with a paediatrician, dietician and psychologist.
The report had also indicated that a school-based program for the reduction in consumption of fizzy drinks was found to be cost-effective, but the evidence of its success was limited. Robert Hall the chief health officer while stating that all this has clearly proved that there needs to be no miracle to cure obesity said, "It's not like there's just a vaccine that we can role out for people. He further mentioned that, "What we will have to do is a whole range of different programs that act together."
Dr Hall was also of the opinion that some of the conclusions of the report might be a "bit tentative" as the evidence base from which they were built was not very strong. Explaining that that just as how the rates of tobacco use had taken so many years to improve, so would obesity, he said, "We will need to adopt a wide range of different strategies that will change over time, and it will take a long time."