Tackling the Sugar System: An event at the George Institute

The Juntos Team were excited to attend an event held by the George Institute discussing a large and far-reaching topic:  The sugar system in Australia and how we can transition to a new food system that supports global health (human and planetary).

The George Institute is a leading voice on the societal and health impacts of the sugar industry, establishing a global thought leadership programme that aims to tackle the big issue of what needs to happen to bring about major change in this area.

The Australian Sugar industry is powerful, generating over $1.1 billion in revenue annually, and employing 9,000 people nationally. However, with Australians typically reported as consuming the equivalent of 13 level teaspoons of added sugar in their daily diet and type-two diabetes on the rise, there is a real need to redress the balance between economic benefits and long-term health outcomes.

Today’s event was centred around a ground-breaking new report commissioned by the Institute and undertaken by Vanessa Clarkson, an academic in food policy and dietetics. This report aims to provide a clear overview of the competing issues and diverse points of view that make up our current food system, which has large corporations and the sugar industry at its heart.

Within the event, we heard from organisations as diverse at the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Lowitja Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Research, which highlighted the breadth of issues faced, from the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef to poor health outcomes for Aboriginal communities.

Encouragingly, there were also people present and joining the conversation from the sugar and wider FMCG food industry, ensuring the conversation took all perspectives into account.

Whilst there is no clear-cut solution to this long-term issue, many speakers at the event suggested that a bottom-up approach is required to ensure that people are involved in the process and are a part of the solution. Policy is not enough. Story-telling and grass-roots action will be key to creating behaviour change.

Juntos have previously been involved in a number of behaviour change health initiatives including a highly successful sugary drinks behaviour change campaign aimed at students; as well as Sydney Local Health District’s Healthy Beginnings programme, which aims to address childhood obesity.  Our experience in this area has given us some insight into the challenges ahead. We valued the opportunity to meet and collaborate with like-minded practitioners and professionals at this event with a view to creating positive change for the future.

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