Researchers find banning junk food ads the most cost-effective way to reduce child obesity

13 August 2009

Banning television food advertising aimed at children is one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle obesity and could save taxpayers $300million in health-care costs, Deakin University health researchers have found.

The researchers analysed a wide-range of data to model the health benefits and cost-effectiveness of removing junk food advertising during peak children’s television viewing times compared to 13 other potential interventions to reduce child obesity, including school-based programs and GP treatment of overweight children.

“Banning TV junk food ads was the highest impact and most cost-effective intervention to reduce childhood obesity that we have modelled to date,” said Boyd Swinburn, professor of population health at Deakin.

“It would not only reduce childhood obesity but it would do so in an equitable way affecting all children and it would eventually result in savings to the taxpayers of $300million.”

Professor Swinburn said a review of the effects of phase 1 of the UK bans found that it reduced the exposure to children of junk food advertising on TV by about a third and that overall broadcasting revenue from advertising actually increased over that period.

“So these regulations clearly protect children and do not harm advertising income for broadcasters,” he said.

“The government is due to respond to the Preventative Health Taskforce report and if they are listening to the evidence and the 90 per cent of the public who want tighter regulations on junk food marketing to children they will follow the UK lead and apply similar or better regulations in Australia.”

The results of the Deakin study are published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

News facts
  • Banning junk food ads aimed at children is one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle obesity
  • Researchers modelled the impacts of a number of potential interventions to reduce child obesity
  • Junk food ad bans could result in savings of $300million in health-care costs

Media contact

Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776; 0418 361 890

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13th August 2009