New report finds Australia lagging on obesity care

Latest News

Australians living with obesity are waiting up to almost a decade to access care, according to new global research supported by Novo Nordisk.

The research looked at 17,000 healthcare professionals and people living with obesity across 11 countries including Australia - ACTION-Au. The research has been published in the Journal of Obesity Research and Clinical Practice.

It shows Australians living with obesity are waiting up to nine years to access care – three years longer than people in comparable countries.

Over two-thirds (67 per cent) of Australians are classified as overweight or obese (35.6 per cent and 31.3 per cent respectively). This could rise to over three-quarters of the population by 2025 - equating to almost 17 million people.

Obesity is associated with a number of long-term health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, musculoskeletal disease and disability. More recently, obesity has also been associated with an increased risk of hospitalisation due to COVID-19.

Yet Australians are also living longer with obesity, with overweight more frequently beginning in childhood or early adulthood.

“Obesity is a chronic health challenge faced by our society today and COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the need to address this silent pandemic. Yet, the current approach to obesity management falls short compared to other chronic diseases," said Professor Wendy Brownm co-author of ACTION-Au and Director of The Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Monash University.

"Despite being an Australian National Health Priority Area since 2008, less than 1% of general practice consultations focus on obesity Obesity remains greatly underdiagnosed and undertreated with most people with obesity still not receiving the care and treatment they need.” 

The ACTION-Au research has identified barriers to obesity care in Australia, including a gap between the perceptiions of healthcare professionals and those living with obesity.

The research shows three quarters (74.5 per cent) of healthcare professionals perceive their patients have low motivation to lose weight but only 21 per cent of people living with obesity do not feel motivated.

Only half (53.2 per cent) of people with obesity discussed their weight with a healthcare professional in the past five years with more than half having initiated the conversation themselves (54.3 per cent).

The main reason people with obesity report not discussing weight management with their healthcare professional is the belief it was their own responsibility (54.5 per cent).

The study also reveals favourable responses about weight loss discussions should encourage healthcare professionals to start conversations earlier. Only three per cent of people with obesity felt offended after discussing their weight with a healthcare professional.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council is in the process of developing the first National Obesity Strategy. 

“At Novo Nordisk we work with the community to tackle the urgent and worsening problem of overweight and obesity in Australia and we look forward to seeing the final National Obesity Strategy," said Jeppe Theisen, vice president and managing director of Novo Nordisk Oceania.

"Novo Nordisk is proud to support this independent research and we will continue to help ensure people living with overweight and obesity receive earlier access to optimal care in Australia.”