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Burnie tackles a weighty problem -

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Burnie tackles a weighty problem

Jennifer Macey reported this story on Monday, November 23, 2009 12:42:00

ELEANOR HALL: The north-western region of Tasmania has the highest rate of obesity in Australia and
higher than average levels of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Now a lifestyle program run by the regional hospital in Burnie is working to change things, as
Jennifer Macey reports

JENNIFER MACEY: Forty-six-year old Trish McKay lives in Tullah - a small town on Tasmania's west
coast. For years she's struggled with different diets and weight-loss programs - with little
success.

TRISH MCKAY: Well, I've always had a weight problem, always. From when I was young.

JENNIFER MACEY: Trish McKay was 145 kilos when her GP referred her to a new program run out of the
Hospital in Burnie called Appetite for Change. She lost 50 kilos.

TRISH MCKAY: I've had someone sit down and explain to me how to read food labels. I mean that was
the hardest thing because you think, oh what do you read and all this and the program showed me how
to read food labels and proportion. It is all about proportion. How much you eat. There is just no
fat or anything in the house anymore.

JENNIFER MACEY: And how do you feel?

TRISH MCKAY: Oh, a lot better. A lot better. I walk to the dam and back at least once a fortnight
which is 12 kilometres - me and my little dog. She is my little walking buddy and I was going to
Burnie 10 twice. That is 10 kilometre circuit in Burnie on the north-west coast.

JENNIFER MACEY: At the time, in the north-west of Tasmania there was a 12-month waiting listing to
see a nutritionist. So two years ago the area health service developed a group-style program run by
a nutritionist and a social worker.

Nicole Micallef is the nutritionist based at Burnie Hospital.

NICOLE MICALLEF: It is very much a lifestyle approach. What I have found from practice as a
dietician one on one with people is that we can talk to people about what they need to do with
their diet and we can basically tell them what to do but people don't particularly like being told
what to do, so it is much better if we can get the person themselves to come up with what they can
incorporate into their lifestyle and they are more likely to keep it long term.

JENNIFER MACEY: So what has been your success rate?

NICOLE MICALLEF: Most patients have done fairly well. We have had about 100 people through the
program at the moment and we've got 80 per cent of them continuing with follow up with us. We've
had people report changes such as their diabetes much more improved and then we've had other
patients who have lost 60 kilos.

We've had a man who is eating vegetables for the first time in his life. So the success is a little
bit different because we are more wanting to build people's self confidences and get those
lifestyle changes into their life in general rather than necessarily looking at how many kilos
somebody has lost.

JENNIFER MACEY: The north-western part of Tasmania has the highest per capita rate of obesity in
the country. The region also has above-average rates for smoking, drinking and lack of physical
exercise.

Dr Michael Aizen is the acting president of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical
Association.

MICHAEL AIZEN: A lot of these diseases are lifestyle diseases and there may in fact be a genetic
component but certainly we can hazard a guess that it is probably a combination of the way people
live and the food they eat and the exercise or lack thereof and possibly a genetic component.

JENNIFER MACEY: The north-west area health service has been approached by hospitals in New South
Wales, Queensland and the ACT which also hope to implement the program.

ELEANOR HALL: Jennifer Macey with that report.