New report highlights urgent need for national obesity strategy

8 Dec 2016

As new figures reveal high rates of overweight and obesity right across the country, the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) is calling for a national obesity strategy to address a serious and widespread weight problem.

The OPC's Executive Manager, Jane Martin says the new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report confirms that rates of overweight and obesity are as high as 73 per cent in regional areas and that even regions with ‘low' rates are still too high.

Ms Martin said overweight and obesity has become the norm in our society.

"We've known for some time that rates of overweight and obesity are higher in regional areas, but when the area with the lowest rate is as high as 53 per cent, it's clear we have a serious weight problem," Ms Martin said.

"We need a national healthy weight strategy which includes a comprehensive approach to tackle overweight and obesity in all parts of Australia.

"While there's no silver bullet for reducing overweight and obesity rates, there are key policies which we know can make a significant difference to the health of all Australians."

The OPC recommends four key actions by government to address the obesity problem:

  1. Develop and implement a long-term, comprehensive, integrated strategy to address obesity.
  2. Take action to substantially reduce children's exposure to unhealthy food marketing.
  3. Introduce a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and use the money raised to offer healthy food subsidies for people on low incomes and to support obesity prevention initiatives.
  4. Make the Health Star Rating System mandatory, to ensure it is displayed on all packaged food products.

The Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2014-15 report finds that in 2014-15:

  • The percentage of overweight or obese adults ranged from 53% in Northern Sydney to 73% in Country SA
  • Overweight and obesity rates were generally higher in regional PHN areas than in metropolitan PHN areas
  • After excluding adults who were overweight, the percentage of obese adults ranged from 16% in Central and Eastern Sydney to 38% in Country SA
  • The obesity rate was 25% or higher in 18 of the 28 PHN areas for which results were available.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the high levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a partnership between Diabetes Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, with funding from VicHealth.