5-point Plan Government to Work on Obesity Epidemic
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The health promotion organisation Obesity Australia has launched a five-point agenda for the Federal Government to immediately address the country’s obesity epidemic.
Three preventative measures which the organisation says could be implemented quickly, and cost effectively, are:
· guidelines for prospective parents for the four years before their child’s third birthday
· expansion of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Programs in primary schools, and
· adopting/adapting the New Zealand primary school education Waikato ‘Energise Program’.
A fourth preventative measure is to restrict television advertising of fast foods/high sugar drinks. While Obesity Australia expects this matter would likely require a government inquiry and therefore take several years, it is urging the government to consider it now.
The fifth measure addresses those who are severely obese, and advocates governmental support through Medicare rebates for treatment of established obesity, for which there is abundant evidence for cost-effectiveness, says Obesity Australia.
‘The first three are straight forward preventative measures and could even be included in the May 2014 budget’ Obesity Australia’s executive chair, Professor John Funder said at the Action Agenda media launch in Melbourne today.
‘Obesity is a multi-faceted and complex issue that can only be addressed by concerted Federal leadership and direction, as was successfully achieved with the tobacco issue’ he said; ‘Obesity is killing people, draining the public purse and dragging down the country’s productivity. We must make a start to stop this epidemic.’
The Action Agenda report, which was provided to 30 federal parliamentarians, claims that the costs of intervention in all cases are less than those of not intervening. The agenda evolved from last December’s Obesity Summit, attended by over 100 leading figures in obesity research, treatment and prevention. The summit acknowledged that obesity is a complex personal and societal issue, and that action over a wide front is necessary to address it. A quarter of the adult population is obese, and another 40 per cent is overweight, which is a reported fourfold increase in 30 years.
Obesity and its associated disorders – type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney disease, depression, sleep apnoea, osteoarthritis, reproductive difficulties and an increased prevalence of cancer – are estimated to have cost $58bn in 2008, in terms of health care and ancillary services, and in lost productivity. This figure increases annually.
The report authors say that the current epidemic reflects the interplay between genetic and environmental factors: the genes have not changed, but the external environment has, with changing lifestyles and the omnipresence of energy-dense processed/‘fast’ food and drinks.
The costs of failing to staunch the flow into obesity are not trivial, according to the report authors. The additional costs of a single lifetime of obesity have recently been estimated at almost a million dollars, without including productivity losses. With over a quarter of the adult population obese, this one-off figure is three times Australia’s current annual health budget, and clearly insupportable, Funder said.
The report is published on www.obesityaustralia.org.
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