Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Comment: Prof John Funder  0419 891 451; Prof Jennie Brand-Miller (Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Sydney) 0417 658 695; Prof Paul Zimmet (Obesity Australia patron and Director Emeritus of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute) 0439 651 502.

See Action Agenda:

5-point plan for Fed Govt to start work on obesity epidemic
The health promotion organisation Obesity Australia today launched a five-point Action Agenda for the Federal Government to immediately address the country’s obesity epidemic.

Three preventative measures which could be implemented quickly, and cost effectively, are:

  • guidelines for prospective parents for the four years before their child’s third birthday
  • expansion of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Programs in primary schools, and
  • adopting/adapting the New Zealand primary school education Waikato ‘Energize Program’ .

A fourth preventative measure is to restrict television advertising of fast foods/high sugar drinks. While Obesity Australia expects this matter would likely require a government inquiry and therefore take several years, it is urging the government to consider it now.

The fifth measure addresses those who are severely obese -- governmental support through Medicare rebates for treatment of established obesity, for which there is abundant evidence for cost-effectiveness, says Obesity Australia.

“The first three are straight forward preventative measures and could even be included in the May 2014 budget,” Obesity Australia’s executive chair, Professor John Funder said at the Action Agenda media launch in Melbourne today.

“Obesity is a multi-faceted and complex issue that can only be addressed by concerted Federal leadership and direction, as was successfully achieved with the tobacco issue,” he said.

“Obesity is killing people, draining the public purse and dragging down the country’s productivity,” he said. “We must make a start to stop this epidemic.”

In all cases the costs of intervention are clearly less than those of not intervening, says the Action Agenda report which has been provided to some 30 federal parliamentarians this week.

It evolved from last December’s Obesity Summit, attended by over 100 of the best minds in obesity research, treatment and prevention. The summit acknowledged that obesity is a complex personal and societal issue, and that action over a wide front is necessary to address it.

A quarter of the adult population is obese, and another 40% is overweight, which is a fourfold increase in 30 years year, the report says.

Obesity and its associated disorders -- type2 diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney disease, depression, sleep apnoea, osteoarthritis, reproductive difficulties and an increased prevalence of cancer -- pose a major risk to Australian society, in terms of increased costs for health care and ancillary services, and in terms of lost productivity, estimated for 2008 to be $58bn.

The current epidemic reflects the interplay between genetic and environmental factors, the report says. The genes have not changed, but the external environment has – changing lifestyles and the omnipresence of energy-dense processed/‘fast’ food and drinks.

Thirty years ago obesity may have been considered primarily a personal matter; today it is overwhelmingly a societal issue, given its prevalence and costs. As such, it requires effective action by governments in the interests of the whole population of Australia, not merely the obese. The complexity of obesity is mirrored by the number and variety of interventions advocated to address the issue.

The costs of failing to staunch the flow into obesity are not trivial, Prof Funder said.

The additional costs of a single lifetime of obesity have recently been estimated at almost a million dollars, without including productivity losses. With over a quarter of the adult population obese, this one-off figure is three times Australia’s current annual health budget, and clearly insupportable, Prof Funder said.

The report is published on

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, Joseph Proietto, Matthew Sabin, Stephen 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 perceptions of obesity, its prevention and its treatment. As part of that mission, Obesity Australia hosted the summit in Canberra, developed a communiqué from that and created this Action Agenda.

Issued by: Graeme Willingham, Graeme Willingham PR 0414 499 887  [email protected]


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Graeme Willingham, Graeme Willingham Public Relations

P: 0414 499 887


obesity in Australia




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