National Obesity Strategy critical as AIHW data reveals burden of inaction

28 Apr 2023

Food for Health Alliance is calling on the Federal Government to fund and implement the National Obesity Strategy to support critical health measures that boost quality of life and reduce rates of premature death and disability for Australians. 

A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report reveals the disease burden attributable to overweight and obesity could fall by 11 per cent and deaths by 10 per cent across the population by 2030, if people at risk reduced their (body mass index) BMI by 1 kg/m2 or about 3 kg for Australians of average height.    

However, AIHW data indicates that if current trends continue, overweight and obesity could outrank tobacco as the leading risk factor, rising from 8.4% to 8.9% of the total disease burden by 2030.  

Jane Martin, Executive Manager, Food for Health Alliance, said this data highlights a critical need to invest in prevention policy measures to improve diets and curb increasing rates of obesity and future poor health.  

“A clear roadmap was laid out in the National Obesity Strategy over a year ago, but government is yet to outline an implementation plan and allocate funding to deliver health improvements for Australians,” Ms Martin said. 

“We all want to live in an environment that supports people to be healthy, active and well. But with two thirds of adults and one in four children above a healthy weight, effective prevention measures that tackle the drivers of unhealthy diets are critically needed to support population health. 

“To protect our children’s health now and as they grow, we must prevent the processed food industry from saturating their lives with unhealthy food marketing. This generation is constantly exposed to unhealthy food and sugary drink ads on their social media, through websites, outdoor advertising, sport sponsorship and TV. 

“These unhealthy food and drink ads are the wallpaper that surrounds our children’s lives as they learn, play and grow. We need the Federal Government to set higher standards to protect our children’s health, improve diets and tackle childhood obesity.” 

Ms Martin said another effective policy approach adopted by more than 50 countries across the globe is introducing a health levy on manufacturers of sugary drinks to encourage them to reduce sugar content in their products and develop more low sugar alternatives.  

Recent analysis in the Australian Medical Association’s Why tax sugary drinks? report estimated that this has the potential to raise $814 million annually which could be invested in health promotion. 

“This report illustrates that unhealthy weight is an urgent and growing public health issue,” Ms Martin said. “To deliver meaningful impact, it’s time we shifted from seeing this as a failure of individual will to delivering population-wide measures that improve diets, keep people out of hospital and reduce pressures on our health system.