Obesity is now set to overtake tobacco as the leading risk factor contributing to disease burden in Australia, according to a new report released this week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The report, Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: key findings, shows overweight and obesity contributed 8.4% of the total disease burden, compared to 8.6% for tobacco. Poor diet is also high on the list, contributing 5.4% of the total disease burden for the nation. Large inequalities were also found across socioeconomic groups and by area of remoteness. The total burden of those in remote and very remote areas was 1.4 times that of major cities, and for those in the lowest socioeconomic group it was 1.6 times that of the highest socioeconomic group.
Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, says this report shows the urgent need for government to release the National Obesity Strategy, without further delay.
“A plan that outlines actions to prevent obesity and improve diets is now more urgent than ever. In October 2018, Australian and State and Territory Health Ministers agreed that a Strategy would be developed, with a strong focus on primary and secondary prevention, and the social determinants of health.
“Significant resources were invested in an extensive consultation process during 2019 and early 2020, with more than 2,000 individuals and organisations participating. A range of stakeholders provided detailed input, with the Strategy slated for release in 2020. It has since been delayed several times.
“The National Obesity Strategy is a fundamental tool and roadmap for all levels of government to drive meaningful change. This report shows that the release of the strategy is now more crucial than ever to support and build a healthy and resilient population and to relieve the burden on our public health system into the future. We have no more time to wait.”
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: key findings. Australian Burden of Disease Study series 24. Cat. no. BOD 30. Canberra: AIHW.