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Urgent action required as obesity toll continues to blow out

Wednesday 23 June, 2010

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report released today highlights the need for the Government to stop pandering to industry and get serious about preventing overweight and obesity, according to Jane Martin, senior policy adviser for the Obesity Policy Coalition.

The AIHW report estimates that type 2 diabetes, stemming from unhealthy eating and inactivity, will overtake smoking as the leading risk factor by 2023. And Australia's obesity rates continue to rise placing the nation among the worst in the OECD.

"These findings are a national tragedy because for the most part type 2 diabetes is preventable. Without any policy reform, in less than five years one-third of all adults will be obese, not just overweight*. This risk factor not only increases the risk of diabetes, but also some cancers, such as breast cancer. This issue will continue to creep up on us unless the Government
starts to show stewardship.

"The Government has failed in its duty of care to protect Australians - particularly children - from the drivers of this obesity epidemic.

"The Government has made some investments in programs, social marketing, monitoring and surveillance; but much more is needed. Most importantly, the Government has not led the way with the policy changes that will create healthier environments and foster healthy living. The efforts of individuals will continue to be undermined by the unbridled promotion of cheap, high fat, high sugar, high salt, highly processed food.

"The Government's tobacco control policies are world leading; now they must turn their attention to obesity by implementing policies that will deliver societal change and dampen demand for unhealthy food such as controls on advertising to children.

"There has been a lot of talk about obesity prevention, and so far very little tangible policy action," she said.

The OPC is urging the Government to:

  1. Implement traffic lights labeling of food to drive people to healthier choices.
  2. Ban junk food marketing to children
  3. Tax unhealthy food and subsidise healthy food
  4. Create meaningful targets for product reformulation.

"The obesity epidemic will only continue to grow. In under 20 years, based on current trends, nine million Australians will be overweight and nearly eight million will be obese."

"This will put increasing strain right through the health system unless we start to take preventive action now," said Ms Martin.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating 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.

* Department of Human Services, 2008. Future prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australian children and adolescents 2005-2025. Public Health Branch, Department of Human Services, Victoria.