Published in BuzzFeed News, 2018
Two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese and public health strategies have so far failed to address this healthcare crisis – probably because our choices around food are much more complicated than you might initially think.
Decisions about what we eat are directed by a complicated blend of socioeconomic, education, and cultural factors.
So what do we really know about diet? And why have we so far failed to redirect Australian food choices?
The CSIRO has released a report this week outlining a new national healthcare strategy, aiming to shift the focus from illness treatment to prevention over the next 15 years.
The Future of Health report provides a list of recommendations with the goal of addressing health inequity, establishing preventative (rather than reactive) strategies, and using precision medicine techniques such as testing individual gut biota.
In general, Australia has encouraging health rankings compared with other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Australia has the fourth lowest rate of disability-adjusted life years among OECD countries (disability-adjusted life years are the number of years lost from a "healthy life" due to illness). It also has one of the lowest rates of smoking among people aged 15 years or older.
Despite this, Australia is still pulling some grim health statistics, with an average of 11 years spent in ill health across a lifetime, which is the highest among all the OECD countries.
Australia, like most middle or high income nations, suffers profoundly from adverse health effects related to obesity and being overweight.
More than three in five adult Australians and one quarter of Australian children are considered overweight or obese.
If you needed any reminding, excess weight has been shown to increase the likelihood of a number of serious problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, multiple forms of cancer, bone disease and sleeping issues.
According to the latest Australian Health Survey, problems related to obesity and excess weight are responsible for 11% of the total health burden in Australia.
These issues are most pronounced amongst lower socioeconomic groups and Indigenous Australians. The lowest socioeconomic strata in Australia experiences a rate of burden related to obesity and being overweight 2.3 times that of our highest socioeconomic group.