The Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University has backed calls for a national obesity prevention plan as an urgent priority to stem the rising tide of obesity.
AHPC is part of a coalition of 34 high-profile groups including the Obesity Policy Coalition, Cancer Council, and Stroke Foundation calling on the Federal Government to establish obesity prevention as a national priority.
Director Rosemary Calder said Australia’s Health Tracker, AHPC’s national report card on health, showed a staggering 63 per cent of adults are now overweight or obese – a figure putting the nation’s health, wellbeing and productivity at serious risk.
The stark assessment of the nation’s declining health found the number of overweight children in Australia had doubled, with more than a quarter of children now considered overweight or obese.
The eight-point action plan Tipping the Scales includes a comprehensive national active travel strategy to increase rates of walking and cycling to school, restrictions on junk food advertising during prime time television, and a pricing levy on sugary drinks to discourage consumption.
Tracker data showed teenage boys consume a staggering 23 teaspoons of sugar daily – an average of 92 grams a day. It also found 70 per cent of children and 73 per cent of young people consume too much sugar.
Active school travel was also one of 10 priority policy actions identified in AHPC’s Getting Australia’s Health on Track - a suite of policies endorsed by over 70 leading chronic disease experts and organisations - launched in Canberra last year.
Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, mental health and cardiovascular disease.
Rosemary Calder said Australian children are some of the most chauffeured in the world with 71 per cent of children and 92 per cent of those aged between 12 and 17 not meeting recommended guidelines for physical activity.
"The weight of Australian children is a serious problem and if this issue does not become a national priority, our children face decades of chronic yet preventable illness," she said.
"We are now one of the world’s fattest nations with very high rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. We cannot stand by and accept such high levels of risk among Australia’s children when the evidence of what we can do is right in front of us."