Name: Caitlin Barr

Student number: n7555415

Tutor: Abbey Hamilton

Cultural Artefact
The cartoon illustration below depicts what is perceived to be a Mother and Father commenting about their sons eating consumption and food habits. The cartoon was found on a blog page written by the Green’s party member Bob Brown, which sparked a great deal of debate and discussion surrounding the obesity issue. The picture brings to attention not only junk food consumption among youth, but also the effect media advertising and television have on young consumers.


The Public Health Issue
Due to a drastic increase of overweight and obesity levels, obesity has become a major social and public health concern in Australia, particularly among Generation Y and future generations. The specific health and social determinants related include an increase of sedentary lifestyles due to technology use, a change in family dynamics and the increase of fast food consumption. The following article will critically analyse related health determinants, while relating specific theory throughout. With obesity levels on the rise, concerning new research figures suggests that higher rates in obesity will only lead to increases in chronic disease, costing millions in future health care systems, when in hindsight do we only have ourselves to blame?

Literature review
The health and well-being of young people not only affects their immediate quality of life and productivity but also shapes the future health of the whole population and, in a broader social sense, the health of society (Eckersley 2008).The prevalence of overweight and obesity in young people is increasing rapidly in both the developed and developing world and is a major global public health concern (Magarey, Daniels, Boulton, & Cockington, 2003). Overweight and obesity affects young people’s psychological wellbeing and increases the risk of developing chronic conditions and adult obesity (Australian institute of Health and Welfare, 2011).

In 2007–08, over one-third (35%) of young Australians were estimated to be overweight or obese—23.3% overweight but not obese, and 11.3% obese (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). As an entire population, all generations obesity levels have significantly increased over the past decades according to the ABS (2011), although it’s the younger generations predominately at risk as the prevalence of childhood obesity has become increasingly common (AIWH, 2011). This puts younger generations at risk as obese children and youth are likely to become obese adults (AIWH, 2011).

Overweight and obesity levels accounted for less than 1% of the burden of disease among young people but contributed 7.5% to the total burden of disease in 2003 among the total Australian population (Burden of Disease and Injury Australia, 2003). This high body mass responsible for 7.5% of total burden of disease and injury is ranked only behind tobacco (7.8%) and high blood pressure (7.6%), although more recent estimates in 2011 show that the figure for obesity (7.5% of total burden) has increased very close to that of tobacco (7.8%) (ABDI, 2003). High body mass is likely to overtake tobacco as the leading modifiable cause of burden as smoking rates decline (AIWH, 2011).

With the incredibly high financial cost of obesity and the associated determinants, this also puts strain on the government. In 2008, the overall cost of obesity (not including overweight) to Australian society and governments was estimated to be $58.2 billion (AIWH, 2011), while the total direct financial cost of obesity for the Australian community was estimated to be $8.3 billion. This figure is only likely to be increased as obesity levels increase over time during future generations.

Based on current trends there is an urgent and immediate need to address the growing prevalence of obesity and overweight in Australia (AIWH, 2011). Many of the risk factors associated with overweight and obesity are preventable andamenable to public health intervention. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been steadily increasing over the past three decades, sharply escalating in the last 10–15 years. In the decade between 1995 and 2004/05, the number of Australians who were overweight and obese increased by two million, rising to 7.4 million (AIWH, 2011). If current trends continue, it is predicted that almost two-thirds of the population will be overweight or obese in the next decade and by 2025, 6.9 million (73%) Australians will be obese (AIWH, 2011). This will only lead to an increase in chronic disease and a decrease in life expectancy.

There is an urgent need to act immediately to address the causes of obesity. A failure to address rising obesity rates among adults and children will lead to significant increases in chronic disease, eroding many of the health gains of past decades (AIWH, 2011).

Cultural and social analysis
As statistics and data confirm, high obesity and overweight levels have become a concerning issue for Generation Y and following generations to proceed. Reasons for the ever-increasing obesity epidemic among Generation Y is primarily due to the change in lifestyles that Generation Y tend to live compared to previous years. Life has become fast pace; therefore the consumption of food is not longer what it used to be. These days the fast food industries have developed to adapt to this pace as they supply fast food quickly, efficiently which in turn saves time for the consumer (Ebbeling, Pawlak, & Ludwig, 2002.) This has therefore increased fast food consumption within society, as it efficient and usually cheap for the consumer.

Socially and culturally as an entire generation we have become less active, with many technologies preoccupying our time predominately, compared to previous years. Interesting data from the 2000 Children’s participation in cultural and leisure activities survey showed that the most popular leisure activities reported by children aged 5–14 years were watching TV and videos (96.9%) and playing electronic or computer games (68.9%) (ABS 2001). Unfortunately, these passive forms of entertainment are likely to be displacing traditional recreational activities such as bike riding and backyard sports (Magarey, et al 2003). Additionally, statistics show that most Australians aren’t meeting the National Physical Activity guidelines, and physical activity over time has become less predominant (ABS, 2011) This is concerning, as our sedentary lifestyles are creating just one of many public health issue that face Generation Y.

Values and experiences with a wide array of family types and norms have also changed significantly within generation Y. As family dynamics have changed so too have the social norms associated. These days it is more unlikely that a family shares a dinner together, without the distraction technology such as television. It seems that as our lives become busier less time as a family is designated, which in turn can promote unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Prevention treatment is the key aspect of intervening with the obesity epidemic. Ultimately better education that involves eating less and being physically active are the two most essential principles for the wellbeing of society (Ebbeling, et al 2002.) Statistics show that 50% of obese children are likely to become obese adults (ABS, 2011). Better education and prevention techniques must be enforced so this concerning statistic is drastically reduced. It is important that educational tools such as the National Physical Activity Guidelines, and the Australian Healthy Eating Guide are available and readily used by the Australia population, as they have been specially formulated for this specific use.

As the Australia population grows, future generations develop therefore it is vital that the obesity public health issue is addressed for the long-term wellbeing of the population. As statistics have shown, the epidemic shows not signs of slowing rates, which in turn will only cost more financially for future generations.

Analysis of artefact

The illustration of the cartoon artefact well represents the public health issue obesity, amongst Generation Y. The message it clearly portrays is a young child’s addiction to the television, and also the consumption of junk food. Within society it has been well documented and statistically justified that youth are spending more time in front of the television, computer and other technologies, therefore becoming less physically active. With the increase of fast food or ‘junk food’ consumption and many other changes in lifestyles changes thus creating concerning public heath implications surrounding the obesity epidemic.

The statement from the cartoon “When it comes to eating I just can’t get him to think outside the box”, the message being portrayed could represent the parents feeling as though they have little control over what type of advertisements the child is watching during television time, thus in turn leading to poor food choices. Some may argue this should not be the case because in many respects yes, television and media are partly to blame for rising obesity levels, but it is also important for parents to take some responsibility. Increasing adolescents and youth’s education about healthy nutrition, and the importance of physical activity while limiting technology use is essential for the well being of current and future generations.

On reflection, I have learnt that it is difficult to pinpoint one specific cause for obesity as many different aspects affect obesity levels among generations. In a broad sense, a great deal of change must be undertaken to decrease obesity levels. In future learning processes as a nutrition student, my understanding and comprehension has broadened the scope of the obesity issue, therefore a wider sense of the topic is understood, not just specifically nutrition based.

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2011. Children’s participation in cultural and l eisure activities, Australia.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing). Australia's young people 2003: Their health and wellbeing. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. <>.

Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing 2010, Physical Activity: Physical Activity Guidelines. Accessed 15 October, 2011,

Ebbeling, C. B., Pawlak, D. B., & Ludwig, D. S. (2002). Childhood obesity: Public-health crisis, common sense cure. The Lancet, 360(9331), 473-473-82. Retrieved from

Eckersley, R. M., Wierenga, A., & Wyn, J. (2005). Life in a time of uncertainty: Optimising the health and wellbeing of young australians. Medical Journal of Australia, 183(8), 402-402-4. Retrieved from

Lee, J. M., & Lee, H. (2011). Obesity reduction within a generation: The dual roles of prevention and treatment. Obesity, 19(10), 2107-2107-2110. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.199

Magarey, A. M., Daniels, L. A., Boulton, T. J., & Cockington, R. A. (2003). Predicting obesity in early adulthood from childhood and parental obesity. International Journal of Obesity, 27(4), 505-505-513. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802251

National Obesity Taskforce 2003. Healthy Weight 2008—Australia’s future. The national action agenda for children and young people and their families. Viewed 20 oct 2011,

WHO (World Health Organization) 2000. Obesity: Preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO consultation. Geneva: WHO.