Doctors’ group the Australian Medical Association has launched a plan to improve nutrition and fight Australia’s soaring obesity rate.

AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said nutrition was the key to stamping out obesity and he highlighted some simple steps for addressing poor nutrition in babies and children, the adult population and older Australians.

The AMA’s recommends that babies should be solely breastfed, where possible, for at least the first six months of life, school canteens should not profit from selling junk food to children, vending machines, which stock anything but water, should be banned in schools, selling chocolates and lollies as fundraisers should be banned and all junk food advertising to children should be banned,

Food labels need to be more user friendly and a comprehensive national nutrition survey is needed to map patterns of food consumption. The current data is ten years old, it said

The doctors also want the federal government must fund a program to improve nutritional status of Aboriginal and Islander women, especially women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, under 20, and women with children under five

They want national standards for the nutrition of elderly people in residential aged care facilities and a national accreditation system is needed to help identify evidence-based weight loss programs, centres and resources.

The AMA supports food fortification to address micronutrient deficiencies, like folate and iodine, in the general population.

“Childhood obesity in Australia is rising at the rate of 1% cent each year and over half of all young Australians will be overweight by 2025 unless parents, governments, and the community address the problem together,” Dr Haikerwal said. “Overweight children are more than 50% more likely to become overweight adults and our children are suffering from problems once thought to be diseases of middle age such as heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and type II diabetes.”

Dr Haikerwal said a National Nutrition Centre would be one way to ensure a national coordinated approach to addressing Australia’s obesity epidemic. “The xentre would provide independent policy advice to governments and also carry out surveys and research, public education campaigns, and accreditation of weight loss programmes.

“Bringing all these roles and responsibilities together under one umbrella would ensure a coherent and comprehensive approach to the problem and would be proof of the government’s determination to get serious about better nutrition,” he said. “Politicians, bureaucrats, researchers and policy makers need a very clear picture of Australia’s current nutritional status. The last national nutrition survey was conducted in Australia ten years ago.”