Time for Fresh Thinking to Tackle Obesity

Today’s National Obesity Summit in Canberra represents an important first step towards a new nationally cohesive strategy on obesity prevention and control.

The Minister for Regional Services and Minister for Sport Senator Bridget McKenzie, said obesity is a critical health challenge of our time for many nations, including Australia.

“The Summit we organised today brings together experts from across a wide field of issues related to obesity,” Minister McKenzie said.

“It’s is obvious that the challenge of obesity is getting bigger and clearly some of the old approaches just aren’t working.

“The summit today is a great opportunity for fresh thinking in terms of our approach to obesity prevention and control.”

“We know that there is not one simple solution to tackling the problem so we need to examine all options and develop a multi-faceted approach.

Last October, the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Health Council— comprising federal, state and territory ministers—agreed to develop a national strategy on obesity.

The Summit and the strategy will consider prevention measures both in the health system and in other areas. It will have a special focus on the early years of life, and on the higher rates of overweight in rural and regional areas.

Minister McKenzie said the Summit represented an important moment for Australians’ health.

“There is no magic fat-busting policy pill,” Minister McKenzie said.

“We need multiple solutions to match the multiple causes.

“If we can find the right policy mix, we will lift a huge burden off Australians, literally and metaphorically.”

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey shows that previous efforts to combat obesity have had limited success.

Two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children aged from five to 17 years are now overweight or obese.

While the rate for children has been stable for 10 years, the proportion of adults who are not just overweight but obese has risen from 27.9 per cent to 31.3 per cent.

Overweight and obesity not only compromise quality of life, they are strongly linked to preventable chronic diseases—heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, certain cancers, depression and arthritis, among others.

“The costs are great—for the individuals concerned, their families, the community, for the health system, and also for our economy,” Minister McKenzie said.

Men are more likely to be overweight than women. Other groups with high rates of overweight and obesity are:

    • people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged;
    • those without post school qualifications;
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
    • people born overseas.

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