Call for action as unhealthy weight tops risk factors for health spending on diseases

7 Apr 2022

New analysis showing high cost of unhealthy weight prompts leading public health groups to call for urgent action to implement policies across the population to prevent obesity.  

The new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows overweight (including obesity) is the most expensive risk factor for Australia’s health spending by disease. This contributes to 18% of health spending on diseases attributed to modifiable risk factors – an estimated $4.3 billion. 

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said the AIHW data demonstrates unhealthy weight is a major public health issue that urgently needs to be addressed. 

“This data shows the stark reality of our high rates overweight and obesity, with 67% of adults and 25% of children. Being above a healthy weight puts Australians at risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers,” Ms Martin said. 

“We have solutions outlined in the recently released National Obesity Strategy. Government should prioritise effective approaches, such as health levies on sugary drinks and protecting children from the marketing of unhealthy food. 

“All Australians deserve to live in environments that promote good health. Yet food and drink companies target our youngest consumers by spending millions in advertising unhealthy sugary drinks, fast foods and confectionary every day. 

“Cheap sugary drinks are the largest contributor to added sugar in Australians’ diets and a significant cause of tooth decay in young children. Introducing a health levy of 20% on the price of sugary drinks can reduce the harm they cause by their consumption and help improve health. 

“Australians expect governments to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our community over the food and drink industry’s profits.   

“Governments must act to implement common sense policies that will help us meet and address this challenge now. Or the future burden on our health system will be too great, leading to financial strain and far worse health outcomes for all Australians, young and old.” 

Read the National Obesity Strategy 2022–2032