Community Health

A KEEN AUDIENCE of practitioners and experts in community health gathered in Cairns on 30 May to debate where investment in health should be directed to add the greatest value.

The audience heard that children who consume sweet drinks program their bodies towards lifelong obesity, type II diabetes and a range of other chronic disorders.

After five most excellent presentations and a roundtable debate, a strong consensus emerged that a sugar levy should be placed upon sugary soft drinks and fruit juices, with the revenue to be spent on personalised health education.

The culprits are not just sugar-laden soft drinks, but also cordials, fruit juices and junk foods generally. The human body is not by nature adapted to digesting refined sugar: in traditional life, sweets such as honey would have been a rare treat, not a daily substitute for meals.

Presentations and other papers arising from the event:

Where are we spending vs where we need to spend to improve health? Prof Robyn McDermott.

Peripheral artery disease and exercise. Dr Jonathan Golledge.

(Dr Golledge is seeking volunteers for trials of an exercise regime – contact details in his presentation).

A cross-portfolio view of health. Dr Emily Callander. (The slides are accompanied by narration).

The event was generously sponsored by the Australian Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine. The proposal for a sugar levy is not necessarily endorsed by the Society or the Institute.

The interest of the Royal Society of Queensland in community health dates back to its foundation in 1859. The first paper in the Transactions was on asphyxia, the second on ventilation of buildings. Other early papers covered public sanitation and the water supply for Brisbane. Nowadays, the scope of the Society’s activities is “science and the application of science”, fields of knowledge that are central to the challenges facing community health.

The Royal Society is now considering the findings of the forum and is considering a submission to government.

A summary of the presentations and discussion is now available.