Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that urgent government attention is required to tip the scales on Australia's rising obesity epidemic, according to Jane Martin, Senior Policy Adviser, Obesity Policy Coalition.
"For the first time we're seeing the number of Australian adults who are overweight (37%) equal the number who are a healthy weight. We are about to reach the tipping point - where being overweight will be the norm - this will have far-reaching consequences in terms of healthcare, lost productivity and reduced quality of life.
"The figures released today also indicate one in four Australian adults is obese and that the rate of obesity has been increasing over the past 12 years - this is not a problem that can be fixed with one approach, it requires a comprehensive plan to change the environment to make it easier for people to make healthier lifestyle choices. This plan should include measures such as junk food advertising restrictions, improved food labelling and food pricing strategies," said Ms Martin.
The ABS figures also indicate that obesity is more prevalent in disadvantaged and rural and regional areas of Australia, as well as in people with lower levels of education. Also, compared to 1995, there are a greater number of younger Australians who are overweight or obese. Almost half the adults under 35 years in the 2007 survey were overweight or obese.
"The government's Swap It social marketing campaign is a good start, but it can't effectively combat many of the key environmental drivers of overweight and obesity such as the price and availability of junk food compared to healthier choices, misleading and confusing food labelling and the sheer pervasiveness of junk food marketing. In particular, these are very potent drivers for disadvantaged groups," Ms Martin said.
The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.
The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia Victoria, The Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.