Jane Martin, Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager, responds to findings from The Lancet Global Burden of Disease Study

16 Oct 2020

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition has called for an accelerated approach in progressing a national obesity strategy in order to tackle Australia’s poor diets and spiralling obesity epidemic.

The call comes following the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study, published today in The Lancet, showing the crisis of chronic diseases and failure of public health to stem the rise in highly preventable risk factors, have left populations vulnerable to acute health emergencies such as COVID-19.

“We have a global health crisis on our hands, which has been exacerbated by the inaction of governments on issues like the marketing, pricing and availability of unhealthy food. As today’s findings confirm, poor diet and overweight and obesity remain high on the list of risk factors responsible for death and health loss in Australia.

“If these trends continue, we could be resigning our children to a lifetime of obesity-related illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and 13 types of cancer. What’s more, recent research has linked excess weight, poor diets and high blood pressure to an increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, adding another layer of complexity for concern[1].

“Two thirds (67 per cent) of adults and a quarter (24.9 per cent) of children in Australia are above a healthy weight. This is not a reality we should be accepting and it’s time we saw commitment and leadership from government to control the tactics of the processed food industry which is driving Australia’s obesity epidemic. We could improve the health and wellbeing of millions of Aussies by urgently implementing the eight policy priorities outlined in the Tipping the Sales report as part of a national obesity strategy.”

The Lancet Global Burden of Disease Study found:

Top 5 leading risk factors for health loss in Australia in 2019:

1. Tobacco use

2. High body-mass index

3. High blood pressure

4. Dietary risks

5. High fasting plasma glucose

Top 5 risk factors associated with highest number of deaths in Australia in 2019:

1. High blood pressure (25,500 deaths)

2. Dietary risks (e.g., low fruit, high salt) (21,600 deaths)

3. Tobacco use (20,100)

4. High body-mass index (18,700 deaths)

5. High fasting plasma glucose (17,700 deaths)

[1] Obesity Evidence Hub. Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, 2020. Available from: https://bit.ly/353rbl1