University of Newcastle Professor Phil Morgan issues obesity warning

Healthy Living: University of Newcastle Professor Phil Morgan with his three daughters Zoe, Taylah and Bronte.

Healthy Living: University of Newcastle Professor Phil Morgan with his three daughters Zoe, Taylah and Bronte.

The Hunter’s obesity epidemic is getting worse and will continue to deteriorate.

This is the stark warning from Professor Phil Morgan, University of Newcastle’s team leader for obesity research. Professor Morgan said the Hunter, like other areas, was an “obesity-promoting environment”.

“Unless we are aware of this and have the knowledge to survive, we’ll be a product of our environment,” he said.

This meant eating and sitting more and moving less.

More awareness was needed “of the physical and mental health consequences of these poor behaviours”.

“Studies suggest that 75 per cent of affected parents don’t recognise their children are overweight or obese because it’s become the norm,” Professor Morgan said.

“There’s also a misperception that if I’m in a perceived healthy weight status, then it doesn’t really matter what I eat or how much I exercise.”

Most weight-loss programs being sold – diet fads among them – had “minimal evidence that they work”.

“There’s a whole range of potions, pills, products and powders,” he said.

Professor Morgan said his community programs were evidence-based, developed with behavioural science and evaluated rigorously.

He said changes were needed at a policy level, relating to the food industry and marketing and the availability of green space.

Charlton MP Pat Conroy said Australia’s health star rating system “needs to be stronger and more transparent so people can make educated choices about food”.

Mr Conroy said it was crucial that people could visit GPs to get nutritional advice “to help avoid the weight gain in the first place”.

The Obesity Policy Coalition recently called for action to protect children from junk food marketing.

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