Fighting the war on obesity on all fronts

Never before has there been more publicly available information about healthy nutrition. Likewise, food companies are under more pressure than ever to reduce sugar and fat in their offerings.

Despite this, a significant portion of the community remains overweight.

The latest Australia’s Health Trackers report shows Raymond Terrace and Scone are the fattest suburbs in the state, with 70.8 per cent of adults recorded as overweight or obese.

The data also showed Mount Hutton and Windale had 69.2 per cent of its population recorded as overweight or obese, with Lemon Tree Passage and Tanilba Bay close behind at 68.7 per cent.

A closer analysis of the Hunter figures shows that a significant percentage of those classified as overweight live in lower socio-economic communities. 

While these people may have the same access to education about healthy eating, the economic reality is that, in many cases, less healthy food options are cheaper and more convenient.

This fact directly plugs into the debate about the role of government policy in helping to improve health outcomes. 

One example is the Australian Medical Association’s call for the introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks.

Another proposal is to place as much emphasis on a child’s physical fitness as on their academic performance. 

But it seems that for every step forward in the war against obesity, a new challenge arises in the form of a fast food marketing campaign or a new online sensation that acts as a disincentive to be physically active.

Those who have successfully lost weight will tell you that while an improved diet and exercise are essential, the most important factor is old-fashioned determination closely followed by the support of family and friends. 

Like so many other areas of public health there is always more to be done.  

At the same time, almost half a century of public education campaigns to promote healthy eating have definitely reaped rewards. 

The focus moving forward needs to be on providing support to those groups in our community which are vulnerable to obesity.

This can be achieved through a combination of formal government policy or improved community support networks. 

Issue: 38,400

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