The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) is calling for government action to stem the obesity epidemic following the release of the COAG Reform Council's final report on healthcare reform.
The report shows that over the past five years governments have delivered some positive results with increased life expectancy, improved emergency department waiting times and falling smoking rates. However, high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes continue to pose major challenges.
Jane Martin, the Executive Manager of the OPC, said: "This report shows that we have a staggering problem when it comes to overweight and obesity in this country. We have made no progress to date to stem the growth of this serious health issue and urgent action is necessary."
The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in 2011-12 was 62.7%, up significantly from 61.1% in 2007-08. COAG set a goal to increase the proportion of Australians at a healthy body weight but the report shows there was no significant change. The report also shows that the prevalence of obesity increases with disadvantage for both men and women.
"We know that low-income families spend a larger proportion of their income on food. Price is a key driver around food choices so recent calls to broaden the GST to include fresh food would be a major disincentive to eat more healthily," she said.
Furthermore, recent cuts to prevention programs in the Federal budget, including a removal of funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health, put a strain on the states at a time when supporting healthy lifestyles and healthy food choices are essential."
Ms Martin also emphasised the importance of the implementation of the health star rating food labelling system to support people to make healthy choices and protecting children from junk food marketing.
"The Health Star Rating Scheme would be a major improvement, providing ratings up to five stars that help consumers compare products at-a-glance to empower healthy choices."
"The obesity problem is here to stay and is only going to worsen without immediate action. We need the government to stop side stepping the issue and tackle it head on. The future health of our nation depends on it."