The Australian government is facing tough challenges managing childhood obesity. Many government schemes have failed to make any significant progress, according to a report Childhood Obesity: an Economic Perspective by the Productivity Commission.

The 170 page report assessed 27 programs such as ‘increasing exercise’, ‘improving diet’ and ‘cutting time sitting in front of screens’. It was noted that the programs had limited success only in terms of encouraging healthier diets and exercise. Some of the interventions were very expensive, making it unlikely for parents to follow, said commission researchers, Jacqueline Crowle and Erin Turner.

The report is reflective of the complex nature of obesity as a lifestyle disorder and might also throw light on deficient policy and evaluation.

The figures show that the rate of obesity among boys under 17 has risen dramatically in the past twenty years to 10 per cent as girls touch about 5 per cent. However, girls have outnumbered boys in the overweight category with 18 per cent while overweight boys are 16 per cent.

The report says Australian children get carried away with a flood of advertisements for energy-dense nutrient-poor foods. A spokeswoman for the Obesity Policy Coalition, Jane Martin, said the report is in contrast to the evidence-based recommendations of the government-appointed Preventative Health Taskforce.

She added that there is need for a comprehensive approach to the health issue including policies to reduce junk food marketing and improved package labeling.