The blot in Australia’s health report

The latest report on Australia’s health shows the nation is performing generally well apart from a notably poor score on overweight and obesity.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report today reveals that by virtually any significant health measure, Australia does better than most other western nations, whether it be in life expectancy, lower mortality rates for coronary disease and colon cancer or falling smoking rates.

“That is in stark contrast to our performance on obesity and overweight rates,” says the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

“Australia’s overweight and obesity rates for adults are significantly higher than the average for developed nations, standing at 66.4 per cent, having continued to increase significantly in recent years.

“The obesity trend increases our future risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.  That’s a matter of more immediate consequence now given the increased vulnerability of those with chronic disease who contract COVID-19.

“So much of our relatively good population health is thanks to preventive health policies of past decades in Australia.  It is obvious that Australia can and needs to do so much more to discourage unhealthy foods and encourage active lifestyle.

“We have led the world in public health strategies that have resulted in reduced tobacco use, and a dramatically lower road toll thanks to alcohol breath testing and mandatory seat belts.

“That’s saved Australia thousands of lives and billions of dollars yet we continue to wrestle as a nation with reasonable and rational measures to stop advertising of salt, fat and sugar-rich foods to young people, and to step up the food stars system.

“Indigenous Australians continue to experience poorer outcomes, part of which is also related to poor diet. Indigenous Australians are 2.9 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Indigenous Australians.

“There have been some improvements in their health in recent years, including a fall in the death rate across all age groups—except for those aged 75 and over --- and rates of ear disease among Indigenous children are decreasing.

"If we are to arrest the degree to which overweight and obesity contributes to chronic conditions and the resulting burden and cost to the health system, we must accelerate development of the 10 Year National Preventative Health Strategy and ensure it has a focus on obesity,” Ms Wells said. 

ENDS

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Media contact

Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986