RACP: A national strategy needed to prevent and treat obesity

obesity pre-budget submissionDoctors are calling for the Federal Government to develop and fund a national strategy to help tackle Australia’s worsening obesity crisis.

In its submission for the 2018-19 Budget, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says the strategy should focus on prevention and treatment measures.

“As a chronic condition, obesity threatens the lives and wellbeing of millions of Australians and costs society and governments at least $60 billion annually,” RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said.

“We encourage the Federal Government to revise the nutrient profile algorithm of the Health Star which would motivate food manufacturers to reformulate and develop healthier products.

“Updating and monitoring comprehensive and consistent national dietary guidelines, physical activity and weight management and making food labelling mandatory should also be addressed in any national strategy to tackle obesity.

“The Federal Government should also tighten marketing restrictions for unhealthy foods and beverages that target children.”

Doctors support the establishment of a taskforce including sustained funding of evidence-based obesity prevention measures, regular and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of key indicators and reporting around evidence based targets.

The RACP wants to see a greater investment in treatment options such as bariatric surgery.

In 2012, a study involving more than 49,000 Australians suffering from obesity found that bariatric surgery, a Medicare Benefits Schedule-listed procedure, is largely available only to patients who can afford private health insurance and associated out-of-pocket costs.

“We believe the Federal Government needs to do more to make these procedures accessible and provide hospital funding to State and Territory Governments specifically geared towards providing equitable access to bariatric surgery for public hospital patients,” Dr Yelland said.

Since 1980, obesity rates have nearly tripled in Australia. In 1980, 10 per cent of Australian adults over 20 years were obese. By 2013, obesity rates for adults over 20 years of age had increased to 28 per cent.

View the RACP’s full pre-budget submission here.
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