Medibank Index reveals small improvement

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New data from the Medibank Better Health Index has revealed a better year with a small decline in the percentage of overweight or obese Australians.

According to the Index, which was conducted by Roy Morgan Research, the number of Australians falling into the healthy weight range has increased by 200,000 people. The mean BMI score declined from 27.44 in 2016 to 27.37 in 2017. The percentage of those who are overweight or obese dipped from 63 percent to 62 percent.

The Index is a comprehensive quarterly health study that offers an in-depth look into the state of the nation’s health and how it is changing. More than 1,000 Australians have been interviewed each week since 2007 for the Index. 

Despite the small decline, the latest Index confirms Australia’s mean BMI is still firmly in the overweight range.

The percentage of overweight and obese Australians has soared over the past decade and it remains significantly higher than 10 years ago - up from 59 percent in 2007 to 62 percent.

The latest data found overweight and obese Australians are currently carrying an extra 16.7 kilograms per person on average.

Medibank chief medical officer Dr Linda Swan said: “Australia’s obesity issue remains at crisis levels and represents one of the greatest public health challenges facing our nation, contributing to a range of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

“Although these findings suggest a potential swing in the right direction, it’s important to bear in mind that this data reflects a subtle change over a relatively short period. And while we hope to see this decline become a more pronounced trend, it’s too soon to tell whether it will represent a meaningful change in our national weight over time. In the meantime, it’s important all Australians take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle -- with regular exercise and a balanced diet -- to help keep their weight in check.”