Childhood obesity rates in Victoria highest in the country: new data

27 Sep 2018

Health experts urgently call for state plan to halt fast-rising rates

Childhood overweight and obesity rates in Victoria are sky rocketing faster than any other state, with new data showing almost 1 in 3 kids are now overweight or obese.

The statistics published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that childhood rates of overweight and obesity in Victoria jumped from 23.4% in 2011 to a massive 30.8% in 2014, higher than any other state or territory in Australia, and well above the national average of 26.1%.

The staggering figures have prompted urgent calls from Cancer Council Victoria for a state strategy to tackle this serious childhood obesity epidemic.

Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria, Craig Sinclair, said that the alarming rise in childhood overweight and obesity rates in Victoria was particularly concerning, given the increased risk of obesity-related cancers that this will lead to in the future.

“Currently 216,600 children in Victoria are overweight or obese and these children are much more likely to remain in these categories as adolescents and adults,” Mr Sinclair said.

“If obesity rates continue to rise we could be resigning our children to a lifetime of obesity-related illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and 13 types of cancer.

“According to these new figures, childhood obesity rates are actually going down in some other parts of the country. It’s vital that Victoria does more to reverse this devastating trend.”

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said that the statistics demonstrate the pervasive unhealthy environment children are exposed to day in, day out.

“These shocking statistics are not surprising when you consider what children are exposed to. We need to protect them from the pervasive and powerful influence of junk food marketing which is wallpaper in their lives - not only on TV but increasingly on digital platforms out of sight from parents,” Ms Martin said.

“It’s time for a state strategy to address the health impacts obesity is having on Victoria, and a focus on tackling childhood obesity must be a priority.”

Cancer Council Victoria said that as obesity prevalence increases in Victoria the number of cancers attributable to obesity are likely to increase over time.

The organisation is also calling on the Victorian government to develop a strategy for the state that includes public education and increasing access to nutritious foods, embedding the Healthy Choices policy in procurement and service delivery and removing all sugar sweetened beverages from state government owned, managed or funded facilities.

Table from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Children’s Headline Indicators

Overweight and obesity : Trend over time