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Cost blowout from obesity epidemic -

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ELEANOR HALL: The health problems associated with obesity are well known. Now there are some
alarming revelations about the economic cost of carrying too much weight.

Access Economics says the cost of dealing with obese Australians has blown out to $58-billion a
year. That's nearly three times the cost just three years ago.

And it's also billions of dollars more than the estimated cost of drug and alcohol abuse to
Australia's health system.

Diabetes Australia says the report should be a wakeup call to all Australians.

Simon Lauder has our story.

SIMON LAUDER: As waistlines expand, so does the bill. In 2005, Access Economics estimated the total
financial cost of obesity-related problems in Australia was $21-billion.

In just three years that's blown out to $58-billion. The Access report says there are 3.71-million
obese people in Australia, which is up from 3.24-million in 2005.

Lynne Pezzullo from Access Economics says most of the cost is measured by estimating the value of
life which is lost to disability and premature death.

LYNNE PEZZULLO: That $49.9-billion is the value of the healthy life that's lost because of the
diseases that are caused by obesity.

SIMON LAUDER: What do you mean by that?

LYNNE PEZZULLO: Well there are four particular types of diseases that obesity contributes to. In
particularly Type-2 diabetes; cardiovascular disease, cancers - in particular breast and bowel
cancer - and also osteoarthritis.

SIMON LAUDER: So that's what you mean lost well-being?

LYNNE PEZZULLO: That's right. There are about 200,000 years of lost healthy life every year in
Australia because of obesity, because of obesity contributing to those core conditions.

SIMON LAUDER: And what are the $8-billiion of financial costs you refer to?

LYNNE PEZZULLO: The financial costs compromise the productivity losses primarily that are due to
the fact that when people are sick because of being obese, they can't work, they can't participate
in the workforce or when they are in the workforce, they are absent more often.

There's also health system expenditures. We also look at other different types of costs so the
carer costs for people who have those conditions when they're being cared for by loved ones who
then also have to take time off work in order to look after people with obesity-related conditions.

SIMON LAUDER: How can this figure have increased from just $21-billion in 2005?

LYNNE PEZZULLO: The increase is actually a re-estimation of the costs and the reason that it was
timely to re-estimate them was that between 2005 and 2008 there have actually been some key new
sources of data that has become available. In particular there has been new estimates of prevalence
that have been released by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.

SIMON LAUDER: The new estimate of the prevalence of one weight related disease is perhaps the most
alarming figure in the report. 240,000 Australians now have Type-2 diabetes as a direct result of
obesity. That's an increase of 137 per cent on the 2005 estimate.

Dr Gary Deed is the president of Diabetes Australia, which commissioned the analysis.

GARY DEED: These figures in this report are alarming and let's look even at the economic cost of
$58-billion for the Australian economy per year in 2008. It is unsustainable in a economy of the
Australian size.

17.5 per cent of Australians are currently obese. One in four of those people will develop Type-2
diabetes. I mean these figures are a wake up call to all of us that we need to do something.

Obesity is now affecting our younger children and adolescents and they grow up into being obese
adults so these figures are just showing that the wave of the epidemic, the tsunami of effect is
just building now.

SIMON LAUDER: The Access Economics report only includes figures for people who are classified as
obese, not the millions of overweight Australians who are well on their way to joining the

Dr Deed says previous estimates of the size of the problem have been understated.

GARY DEED: What we have been doing isn't working. Let's go and look at what other things we can do.
Don't try to do piecemeal affects against the obesity epidemic.

SIMON LAUDER: He says the report highlights problems for all Australians.

GARY DEED: That level of quality of healthcare is unsustainable so by ... looking at a future in
Australia where Australians may not receive or be able to receive the quality of healthcare they
get in 2008.

SIMON LAUDER: A comparison with another problem Australians have when it comes to excess puts the
obesity problem in perspective.

Earlier this year a government report estimated the total cost of Australia's use of tobacco,
alcohol and illicit drugs at $56-billion a year.

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Rosanna Capolingua.

ROSANNA CAPOLINGUA: There's a very big message in both those numbers. $56-billion drugs and
alcohol, $58-billion in obesity. All of these things are preventable.

SIMON LAUDER: Access Economics says that with no change to the obesity rate, 4.6-million
Australians will be obese by the year 2025.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.