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Junk food, alcohol advertising should be targeted like smoking
THE Gillard government is being urged to crack down on junk food and alcohol advertising now that it has taken on big tobacco by legislating for plain packaging of cigarettes.
The AMA says it should be easier for Australians to make healthy choices about their lives.
"There has been significant progress on the part of governments in tackling smoking rates but gaps remain regarding excess weight and excess alcohol use," the AMA stated in its federal budget submission released on Tuesday.
"Excessive alcohol use, excess weight and smoking continue to put Australians at high risk of serious diseases and these behaviours reduce people's life expectancy by five years on average."
Federal Labor is forcing all cigarettes to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from December and is moving to ban tobacco companies from advertising their products on the internet.
But health experts have been disappointed the government has refused to implement the key recommendations of its own preventative health taskforce when it comes to junk food and alcohol.
The AMA has called for alcohol advertising to be restricted to publications, locations and times that minimise their influence on people under the age of 18.
The association also wants the government to ban all marketing that specifically targets teenagers and to prohibit alcohol manufacturers from sponsoring sporting events.
On the fast food front, the AMA submission argues ads pushing energy-dense and nutrient-poor products onto children should be outlawed "particularly in children's television viewing times".
"Rates of overweight and obesity are unacceptably high among Australian children," the association said.
The AMA also supports mandatory traffic light labelling on packaged foods to help consumers pick the healthiest option.
President Steve Hambleton expects the May budget to be "frugal across the board" as the government shores up the economy for tough times ahead.
But while the AMA isn't looking for any "big bang health reform", according to Dr Hambleton, it is calling for funding increases in certain areas.
In particular, the association wants a massive boost to the health and medical research budget.
"The government must increase support for health and medical research by at least 10% each year over the next four years," the submission stated.
"Specific funding should be allocated to improve the evidence base for preventive medicine and chronic disease management."
The AMA argues the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) must be better equipped to support research into increasingly prevalent conditions such as diabetes, cancer and dementia "and to build workplace productivity and address population ageing".
Other key points in its 2012/13 budget submission include:
* a call for fees paid by the government to doctors for various services to be indexed "on par" with the consumer price index (CPI)
* the extension of Medicare rebates for GPs to provide video consultations to residents of nursing homes and hostels