How can we combat the growing incidence of chronic health disorders such as obesity and diabetes?

What’s the problem?

Let’s face it. As a country, we are getting fatter not fitter. For chronic health disorders like obesity, lifestyle factors are contributing to its rising prevalence. For many other chronic conditions, age also comes in to play.

Alt text As we age, many of us may develop and have to manage one or more chronic health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure (as well as obesity!). Data indicates that the burden on the health system from these conditions is only going to grow. And yet in most cases, these conditions are (to some degree) self-inflicted. It is said that the most effective kind of health care is prevention.

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission agrees, describing effective health care as that which is oriented to preventing problems and helping us manage our heath effectively through the changes occurring at different stages of our lives. Chronic illnesses are becoming a bigger and bigger problem in Australia. If we want to reverse this trend, then much more needs to be done.

Seven things you need to know

  • Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

  • The percentage of people who were overweight or obese has increased from 2007-08 in all areas of Australia. In 2011-12, over a third of Australians’ measured were in the overweight range and over a quarter were obese.

  • More than 30,000 Australian children may now be severely obese.

  • The percentage of people who are overweight or obese tends to be higher in older age groups, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and for people living in remote and outer regional areas.

  • Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; increasing at a faster rate than other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

  • Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes and 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes.

  • Total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion.

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