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The Prevalence of Obesity in the Country

Discuss about the Prevalence of Obesity in Australia.

Australia has been credited for having one of the most stable healthcare systems in the world. However, the country, just like any other nation, still faces a myriad of challenges in its healthcare system. For a very long time, the country has been battling different health issues such as obesity, HIV/AIDS, cancer, Tuberculosis (TB), diabetes, heart infections, and many others. These are diseases which have been identified to be the priority areas which should be properly addressed by using the most appropriate strategies. Obesity, being one of the national priority ailments, has been negatively impacting on the Australian society. However, the condition can still be addressed if appropriate interventions are taken. The purpose of this paper is to present a critical analysis of obesity as a major issue of concern in Australia.

Obesity, which simply refers to overweight, refers to a condition which results into an increment of an individual’s body weight by at least 20% above the normal weight. Scientifically, obesity is equated to a total Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and above. Meaning, the people who have a BMI of not less than 20 are considered to be obese (Di Cesare, et al., 2013). As a condition, obesity has been linked to an increase in the body fats. Meaning, the more fats accumulate in the body, the higher the chances of an individual contracting the disease. This is why obesity has been categorized as a lifestyle disease whose causes are linked to unhealthy behaviors such as poor eating habits and physical inactivity (Razum & Steinberg, 2017). It is therefore clear that obesity can be contracted if a person does not engage in physical activities or eat sugar-rich food products such as chips, chicken, burger, sausage, and many more. These food products can increase the accumulation of fat in the body.     


In terms of statistics, obesity has been categorized as one of the most serious public healthcare issues across the globe. The rates of obesity has been steadily increasing world over. According to the latest statistics, at least 200 million people are currently suffering from obesity across the world.  In Australia, the rate of obesity infection has been rising in the recent past. According to information from the World Health Organization, in 2015 63.4% of Australian adults had obesity (Zhao, Vemuri & Arya, 2016). This is a great increase because in 1995, the rate of obesity in the country stood at 56.3%. Meaning, according to this statistics, 2 out of 3 adult Australians are obese.  Out of this number, 53.6% were overweight while 18% are categorized as obese because they have a MBI of 30. Australia also has a high rate of childhood obesity which affects its younger populations.  Just like their adult counterparts, the young population is susceptible to obesity because of their obsession with junk foods and lack of engagement in physical exercises (Hankonen, et al., 2015). 

The Interventions so far implemented to tackle Obesity

Obesity has been identified as an issue because it is actually one of the most challenging healthcare issues in the country today. In 2008, the Commonwealth Government of Australia elevated obesity to the levels of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer because it had been identified as a national health priority in the country. According to recent research, obesity has been affecting different categories of people in the country. It affects everyone including the adults, children, and immigrants, indigenous and non-indigenous communities (Johnson & Kenny, 2010). However, in terms of prevalence, the condition has been established to be more prevalent amongst the immigrant and indigenous Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islander people than the non-indigenous nationals. For example, amongst the indigenous community which of course has the highest rates of obesity in the country, the prevalence stood at 31% in 2001. Subsequent studies have also proven the same and confirmed that the indigenous communities are in a dire need of help.  This is a clear proof hat obesity is a very serious issue in the country.

The decision by the Commonwealth Government of Australia, in August 2008 to add obesity to the list of National Health Priorities marked an important stage in the fight against obesity. Since then, condition has been declared as a priority issue which must be addressed because if ignored, it can create an unhealthy population which is dangerous for the prosperity of the country (Caplan, 2013). Therefore, in order to address the problem of obesity, the government and other interested stakeholders have been adopting implementing certain interventions which have positively contributed towards the eradication of obesity as outlined herein:

The government has established that poor diet is one of the major causes of obesity. Children and adults have been becoming overweight because of poor eating habits which make them to use unhealthy food products like pizza, ice cream, hamburgers, soft drinks, sugary carbonated carbohydrates, candy, tacos, snacks, desserts, gums, and sweets (Mytton, Clarke & Rayner, 2012). These foods are dangerous because they contain sugar which results into the accumulation of fats in the body. Since these foods have been linked to obesity, the success in the eradication of the disease greatly relies on the success in the elimination of these food products.

To achieve this goal, the government has been engaging in promotional campaigns to sensitize the public and empower them to change their eating habits. When people change their behaviors, they can refrain from using such food products because they can make them vulnerable to obesity. However, apart from these behavior change promotional campaigns, the government has been liaising with its partners to regulate the production, supply, and consumption of the fast food products in the country (Sacks, et al., 2015). Such initiatives include the banning of fast food ads for the children, imposition of heavy taxation on the fast food products, lowering of the amount of sugar in the fast food products, and provision of incentives to the companies engaged in the manufacture of fresh food products such as fruits and vegetables. Indeed, this strategy has been effective in addressing the persistent problem of obesity in the country. It has created awareness on healthy eating habits and made the food companies to refrain from the production and supply of fast food products in the country (Smith, Gray, Fleming & Parnell, 2014).   

The other intervention which has been so far adopted by the government is to encourage the Australians to engage in physical exercises. A large number of people have been contracting obesity because they do not engage in physical activities (Bray & Popkin, 2014). As a responsible government, the Commonwealth government has been collaborating with the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), territory governments, and other interested stakeholders to support physical activity in the country.

This has been implemented by adopting different kinds of strategies. First, the government has been engaging in the urban planning initiatives. Measures have been taken to advocate for the creation of recreational facilities within the urban areas. Preferential treatment has been given to the towns because the urban dwellers tend to have higher rates of physical inactivity as compared to the rural dwellers (Zhao, Vemuri & Arya, 2016). Reason? In the urban centers, there are no enough recreational facilities like green parks, and sidewalks along the roads. At the same time, urban dwellers do not prefer to engage in physical exercises because of their lifestyle. Even the children do the same because they spend a lot of time watching the television and playing indoor video games.  All these will be eradicated if the strategy is appropriately implemented. Secondly, the government has been supporting individuals to enroll in the gyms. These initiatives have greatly contributed towards the fight against obesity in the country (Wen, Simpson, Rissel & Baur, 2013). Each and every territory government has been coming up with ideas whose implementation has been enabling the people to engage in physical exercises.

The government has acknowledged that obesity is not uniformly distributed in the country. There are sections of the population which is at greater risk. For example, childhood obesity which has been established to be a major issue of concern has been addressed by helping the children to change their behaviors. The Australian children contract obesity because they are physically inactive and do engage in unhealthy eating habits. For example, the children prefer to eat the fast foods which are sugary (Waddingham, Stevens, Macintyre & Shaw, 2015).

In order to address the problem of physical inactivity amongst the children, the government has been supporting the Active After-School Community programs which are aimed at encouraging the children to get rid of obesity by engaging in physical activities. This strategy has been of great contribution in addressing the problem of childhood obesity (Feldman & Vincent, 2005). Children have been sensitized to participate in physical activities and refrain from unhealthy lifestyles like spending the entire day in their houses while watching the television and playing video games. The program has been helpful because it has been creating awareness to the children to life a right lifestyle which can benefit them (Bhopal, et al., 2014). The other strategy which has been taken to address the problem of childhood obesity is the regulation of the fast food industry. The government has been achieving this goal by coming up with measures to ensure that the children do not get a free access to fast food products which is so unhealthy for them.

Conclusion

It is true that obesity is a major issue of concern both within and out of Australia. The prevalence of obesity in the country is higher than expected. This means that a large number of Australians have been leading unhealthy lifestyles which only put their life to risks of contracting the disease. Failure of the people to eat healthily and engage in physical activity has made them vulnerable to the disease. However, the disease can still be controlled if appropriate measures are taken. The measures so far taken by the government of Australia have been yielding lots of fruits. If it were not for the health promotional campaigns implemented, the prevalence of obesity would be higher than it currently is.

Of all the cited intervention, the supporting of the physical activity is the best. The strategy is better than others because it focuses on improving the physical health of individual Australians. People should be encouraged to engage in physical activities because it can improve their health.  When people exercise, they can burn excess calories and get rid of lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart attack. Meaning, if the campaign succeeds in introducing the culture of physical fitness in the country, it will manage to provide a long-term solution to the persistent problem of lifestyle diseases. The strategy can be of great contribution if used in addressing the problem of childhood obesity. Programs like the Activity After-school should be supported because it can help in changing the lifestyle of the children by making them active members of the society.

References

Bhopal, R.S., et al., (2014). Effect of a lifestyle intervention on weight change in south Asian individuals in the UK at high risk of type 2 diabetes: a family-cluster randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2(3), pp.218-227.

Bray, G. A., & Popkin, B. M. (2014). Dietary sugar and body weight: Have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes? Diabetes care, 37(4), 950-956. Caplan, P. ed., (2013). Food, health and identity. Routledge: London.

Di Cesare, M., et al., (2013). Inequalities in non-communicable diseases and effective responses.

The Lancet, 381(9866), 585-597.

Feldman, S., & Vincent, M. (2005). Panic Nation: Unpicking the Myths We're Told About Food and Health. London: John Blake Publishing.

Hankonen, et al., (2015). Which behavior change techniques are associated with changes in physical activity, diet and body mass index in people with recently diagnosed diabetes?.

Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 49(1), pp.7-17.

Johnson, P., & Kenny, P. (2010). "Addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats: Role for dopamine D2 receptors". Nature Neuroscience. 13 (5): 635–41

Mytton, O. T., Clarke, D., & Rayner, M. (2012). Taxing unhealthy food and drinks to improve health. BMJ, 344(7857), e2931.

Razum, O. & Steinberg, H., (2017). Diabetes in Ethnic Minorities and Immigrant Populations in

Western Europe. In Diabetes Mellitus in Developing Countries and Underserved

Communities (pp. 225-233). Springer International Publishing: London.

Sacks, G., et al., (2015). Comparison of food industry policies and commitments on marketing to children and product (re) formulation in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Critical Public Health, 25(3), 299-319.

Smith, C., Gray, A. R., Fleming, E. A., & Parnell, W. R. (2014). Characteristics of fast- food/takeaway-food and restaurant/cafe-food consumers among New Zealand adults.Public health nutrition, 17(10), 2368-2377.

Waddingham, S., Stevens, S., Macintyre, K., & Shaw, K. (2015). “Most of them are junk food but we did put fruit on there and we have water” What children can tell us about the food choices they make. Health Education, 115(2), 126-140.

Wen, L. M., Simpson, J. M., Rissel, C., & Baur, L. A. (2013). Maternal “junk food” diet during  pregnancy as a predictor of high birthweight: Findings from the healthy beginnings trial. Birth, 40(1), 46-51.

Zhao, Y., Vemuri, S. R., & Arya, D. (2016). The economic benefits of eliminating Indigenous health inequality in the Northern Territory. Med J Aust, 205(6), 266-269.

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