Fast food threatens public health in the Murraylands, councillor warns

But illicit drugs and mental health issues remain more concerning in Murray Bridge, according to a regional health and wellbeing plan.

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The temptation of fast food is too great for “the modern housewife” in Murray Bridge, a local councillor says.

Cr Clem Schubert thinks the city’s council is playing a losing game against fast food outlets and other contributors to poor public health.

Councillors voted in favour of a new regional health and wellbeing plan at their most recent meeting.

But Cr Schubert questioned whether it was worth spending $5000 per year on the plan when the junk food juggernaut appealed so strongly to so many community members.

“We seem to be spending a lot of money,” Cr Schubert said.

“But these blokes are hell-bent on killing themselves (with unhealthy food).”

A majority of Australians had visited a McDonald’s in the past six months, he said; more than 40% had gone to a KFC, 30% to a Subway, 29% to a Hungry Jack's and 10% to a chain-owned pizzeria, according to market research.

Mayor Brenton Lewis countered that it was the council’s job to encourage a healthy lifestyle in its residents, including by providing parks and other outdoor spaces.

“The fast food lifestyle is alive and well, and very well supported by a lot of people in the community,” he said.

“What it is we need to do as a community is be aware of what that might mean, and ... offer up some balance.

“As a council, we've got some responsibility.”

Illicit drugs, mental health are bigger issues

Mental health problems, smoking and obesity are all more prevalent in the Murraylands and Riverland than in other parts of country South Australia, according to consultancy firm URPS.

One in five Murray Bridge residents assessed their own health as being only fair or poor.

The solution offered by local governments – and approved by Murray Bridge’s councillors last month – is a draft health and wellbeing plan for the region.

Focus areas for the Murray Bridge council will include:

  • continuing the Planet Youth anti-drug program

  • lobbying for more mental health and drug rehabilitation services

  • implementing its plan for better disability access and inclusion

  • continuing to build walking trails and playgrounds

  • investigating the potential for a community sewage system on the east side

Members of the public will be given a chance to provide feedback on the plan, including through an online survey which will be posted on the Murraylands and Riverland Local Government Association website.

The councils were required to develop a public health and wellbeing plan by South Australia’s Public Health Act.