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Obesity - A life and death struggle.



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PRESS RELEASE

Obesity - A Life And Death Struggle

Wednesday, 19th July, 2006

The Australian Government’s Ministerial task force on childhood obesity is a strategic step forward in coordinating a national response to the childhood obesity epidemic and diseases such as diabetes, Senator Guy Barnett said today.

“It is strategic because our children are getting fatter. Half of them will remain overweight through to middle age and beyond. By that time the life and death struggle for our young is virtually lost,” Senator Barnett said.

“I commend the Government for initiatives taken today, because we either fight for the lives of our children in a world dominated by fast food, television and computer games, or, they simply get fat and ultimately they die young,” he said.

Senator Barnett said a high level taskforce could cut through the layers of vested interests and resistance in our society in such fields as making childhood obesity a national health priority.

With others I have promoted a number of reforms aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic - reforms that I will put to the task force for consideration:

• Make obesity a national health priority. • Extend the Medicare rebate to treat obesity as a chronic disease. • Annual benchmarking of health and fitness of the nation’s children, just like literacy and numeracy. • Extending the Australian Government’s $1500 Healthy Schools Communities program for annual funding. • Expanding the Government’s Active, After Schools Communities program to include all schools in Australia. • Adopting 2010 as a target to halt the rise in obesity, and adopting 2015 as the target for halving obesity in children. • Establishing a healthy lifestyle commission of eminent Australians to advise the Australian Government on health and lifestyle opportunities and risks to the nation’s children. • A ban on sugary drinks, soft drink vending machines and indulgent foods from tuck shops, and, implementing strong new national school canteen guidelines. • Labeling reforms to ensure truth in advertising, to outlaw claims such as 98% fat-free, and, include information useful to consumers.

“Childhood obesity is a life and death struggle. By 2020, it is estimated that 9.6 million adult Australians will be overweight or obese. In children, the obesity crisis is even worse, with rates tripling in just over 10 years,” he

said.

He commended the government for other planks of the plan such as the children’s nutrition and physical activity survey because the existing data needed to be broadened and updated.

“We must marshal the nation’s expertise and efforts to defeat this epidemic. Obesity and diabetes are now recognised as the worst health epidemics in world history, with 100,000 more Australians contracting diabetes and 200,000 becoming obese each year,” he said.

“The key to this life and death struggle is not just more money for hospitals and research, it is preventative health - preventing our children from growing old with the obesity they had in childhood.

“The Australian Government is currently spending a massive $39.8 billion, including $10.592 billion on health care agreements and hospital services for the States, with the increases each year running at more than 6%. Obesity plays a significant part in the root causes for this huge commitment of funds,” Senator Barnett said.