There is no political will for major upstream primary prevention of obesity at present in Australia, the Obesity Summit in Canberra was told today.
“It should be a national health priority given its huge personal, medical and socio-economic costs,” said Professor Paul Zimmet, Director Emeritus of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
“Obesity is driving the epidemics of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep disturbances,” he said.
The summit has been convened by Obesity Australia, a not-for-profit health promotion organisation, to set a platform to change public perceptions of obesity, its prevalence and its treatment. A team of 24 speakers with supporting panel and audience discussions is outlining the extent of the problem of obesity and its associated disorders while exploring whose responsibility it is and proposing solutions for its mitigation.
It is the first major obesity conference of its kind in Australia, drawing on the knowledge of specialist societies, general practice, media, community interest groups and the food industry.
Professor Zimmet told the conference he was a member of the Rudd/Roxon-appointed Preventative Health Task Force on Tobacco, Alcohol and Obesity.
“The action on the obesity recommendations has been weak and fragmented while the task force’s recommendations on tobacco were enthusiastically and effectively addressed by the federal government,” he said.
”The federal government clearly has no appetite to tackle obesity – there is no effective national response to obesity,” he said.
The government’s major funded obesity initiative through the new National Health Promotion Agency, the $40million “Swap it – Don’t Stop It” social marketing campaign, featuring Eric the Balloon man, is likely to be a taxpayer’s waste of money, Prof Zimmet said.
Prof Zimmet described sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea and lesser degrees of sleep disturbance, as obesity’s ‘Sleeping Giant’ or ‘Elephant in the Room’.
Preventing obesity needs an integrated community strategy, he said, not single silo approaches such as food labelling and reducing advertising in childrens’ TV viewing time.
“It needs attention to early life issues -- maternal and child health issues – as well as urban planning, the workplace and schools,” he said.
Obesity Australia is a not-for-profit health promotion organisation. Obesity Australia Members comprise the Board: John Funder (Executive Chairman), Christine Faulks, Christine Bennett, Geoff Walsh, Helen Coonan and Peter Gluckman, as well as Patrons Paul Zimmet and Harold Mitchell. Obesity Australia also has a Scientific Advisory Board comprising Jennie Brand-Miller, Joe Proietto, Matt Sabin, Steve Simpson, Stephen Colagiuri, Gary Wittert, Michael Cowley, John Dixon, John Funder and Peter Gluckman. The CEO for Obesity Australia is Stella Clark. The mission of Obesity Australia is to drive change in the public perception of obesity, its prevention and its treatment. As part of that mission, Obesity Australia is hosting the summit in Canberra.
Comment: Prof Zimmet 0439 651 502
Media contact: Graeme Willingham, Graeme Willingham Public Relations Tel: 03 9660 5541 Mobile: 0414 499 887 Email: [email protected]
Graeme Willingham, Graeme Willingham Public Relations
P: 03 9660 5541
M: 0414 499 887