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Prevention news wrap

11 April 2017

By Helen Signy, Senior Communications Officer

World Congress on Public Health

It is 50 years since the World Federation of Public Health Associations was formed, and public health has never been more important.

The health impacts of globalisation, new understandings about the social determinants of health, threats to the sustainability of health systems and other concerns were discussed by delegates from more than 83 countries in Melbourne at the 15th World Congress on Public Health from 3–7 April.

World Congress of Public Health

In a demand for action, the partner organisations called on governments to enable public health professionals and their organisations to carry out their work. They also called on governments to hold all sectors accountable for the health impacts of their policies and actions, as stated in the Sustainable Development Goals.

A particular concern raised at the Congress was the ability of science to influence public health in a post-truth era. As SBS reports, scientific research and even scientists themselves are under frequent attack thanks to the rise of fake news, populist politics and the vehicle of social media.

Climate change and public health

Hot on the heels of his failure to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, US President Donald Trump rapidly turned to undoing Obama’s climate laws.

The President signed executive orders that will see a dramatic change in US federal climate change rules by targeting Obama’s Clean Power Plan and increasing support for coal and other fossil fuels. This came just days after the Trump administration appointed climate change denier Scott Pruitt as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Trying to roll back Obama’s climate legacy has serious implications for public health. More than 5 million people die every year from air pollution, not to mention the health impacts of the release of more greenhouse gases, as this article explains.

A key speaker at the World Congress on Public Health was the World Health Organization’s Dr Maria Neira, who told the Congress that the key challenges facing health today were inequity and climate change. She joined Dr Elizabeth Hanna of the Climate and Health Alliance to discuss the implications of climate change for public health on this week’s Life Matters on Radio National.

Meanwhile, three of Australia’s big four banks – the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and NAB – are reviewing their exposure to fossil fuels, including their lending practices to households and farmers, in response to climate change, the Guardian reports.

And Doctors for the Environment Australia recently held their annual national conference in Melbourne, with the theme: Global problems, local solutions. You can read the Croakey wrap here.

Lessons in nutrition for newborns

Parents of newborns will be recruited in maternity wards to be taught basic nutrition rules for babies under a new program being piloted by NSW Health.

As part of the NSW Premier’s Priority to reduce childhood overweight and obesity by 5 per cent by 2025, 1000 families will be recruited to receive health information via letters, text messages and phone calls until their child is two.

Food marketing creates confusion over healthy choices

There has been more evidence recently that self-regulation by the food industry is not enough when it comes to helping people make healthy food choices. The George Institute for Global Health released its study of the salt content of more than 1400 bread products. It found that although salt content in bread had reduced by about 10 per cent since Government’s Australian Food and Health Dialogue targets were introduced in 2010, many of the loaves being marketed as ‘healthy’ contained more than a third of the daily recommended salt intake in just two slices.

Meanwhile, clever food marketing is threatening the credibility of the Health Star Rating system, according to the Obesity Policy Coalition’s Jane Martin, who accused food companies of using the ratings only on their healthiest products, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald. Although the Health Star Ratings have been in place since 2014, a Heart Foundation study last year found that the system was not widely seen as credible and reliable. A formal review of the system is expected in mid-2019.