Lancet obesity papers show need for urgent strategy


obesity - someone trying to do up jeans

The average Australian man now weighs 85.9kg, up 6.5kg more than 25 years ago, a new series of papers on obesity has found – and 35% of adults are overweight or obese.

The second Lancet Series on Obesity has just been published, highlighting the need for a national obesity strategy and a comprehensive approach to the epidemic.

National Heart Foundation CEO Mary Barry welcomed the research and said it shows why the government needs to act to:

  • renew and strengthen the national food reformulation program to reduce excessive sugar, fat and salt in processed food;
  • move as quickly as possible to make the new Health Star Rating system compulsory for packaged food products;
  • oppose the marketing of junk food to children on social media and outlawing advertising of these products during popular TV programs; and
  • explore a tax on sugar sweetened beverages.

“An urgent rethinking of the causes, enablers, and barriers to change are needed to begin to make a difference in the obesity pandemic,” Barry says.

“The average Australian man now weighs 85.9kg, which is 6.5kg more than 25 years ago and the average woman has gained 5.7kg and now tips the scales at 71.1kg.

“Of those people aged over 18 years, 35 per cent or 5.1 million are overweight (BMI 25.00 to 29.99), 28% or 3.9 million are obese (BMI>30) and 56% or 9.5 million are not sufficiently active for health.

“In comparison to 1980, the proportion of obese adult Australians has tripled, while the number of people in the healthy weight range has almost halved.

“Carrying too much body fat puts people at risk of cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes, some cancers and numerous other health problems,” Barry says.

The World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases 2013–2020, adopted at the World Health Assembly in 2013, has the target of no increase in prevalence of obesity between 2010 and 2025.

“The deadline for this very modest goal is only 10 years away but with trends continuing the way they have been the target seems unattainable for Australia,” says Barry.

“We need to not only halt but we need to reverse the obesity pandemic by changing our societal approach to food, beverages, and physical activity.  It is one of the most important challenges that must be tackled collectively by Government, community and the individual.

“These papers are a reminder for all those in government and positions of power that spending on health is an investment, and the key is investing in prevention.”

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