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A call for national obesity awareness in Australia

Photo: Time for national obesity plan: expert
A prominent researcher and clinician has renewed calls for urgent national action, including regulatory reforms, to stem obesity rates in Australia.

The current lack of co-ordinated national action on the obesity epidemic in Australia is "unacceptable", says prominent researcher Laureate Professor Nick Talley.

Prof Talley is the chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges - a coalition of Australia's most influential doctors' groups - and has written an editorial calling for urgent action to halt the "alarming" rates of obesity.

More than one-in-four children are now overweight or obese, as are over two-thirds of all adults.
Of the children and adolescents diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, one-third is either overweight or obese.

"It is alarming how much unhealthy body weight has expanded since the 1970s, when obesity was uncommon," Prof Talley wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia.

"Aside from aesthetics, the problem is not excess weight per se, but the serious health consequences that stem from being overweight or obese," he wrote.

The serious health consequences include an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes - all of which shorten life expectancy.

Prof Talley says all areas of the health sector, governments and community must work together.

"The current lack of co-ordinated national approach is not acceptable," Prof Talley said.

As a starting point, Prof Talley wants to see the formation of a national task force established by the commonwealth government to oversee a national plan to combat obesity.

The task force is part of a six-point plan of action established by the National Health Summit on Obesity, held last year.

"It is time now that Australian health care professional, organisations, training future health care professional, and government at all levels begin looking at what we can do together, the six-point plan is a start" said Prof Talley.

The six point plan includes:

  • Reclassifying obesity as a chronic disease to remove stigma
  • Introducing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Incentives for food reformulation
  • Reduce unhealthy food marketing to children
  • Education and upskilling: targeted training for all medical and health professionals to ensure a focus on nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention and management
  • Pre-conception planning: expand prenatal and early childhood obesity prevention strategies


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