Everyone knows we have an obesity crisis right? Right, well who wouldn’t know, it’s basically splashed all over the news day in and day out.
Dah, it’s important!
But you know what I found out? It’s not that important to splash cash into this major public health problem that is costs the economy money in direct and indirect costs. Obesity costs the Australian economy $8.3billion in direct costs, $2.0billion of which was spent in the health care system . The indirect cost of well-being to the individual was estimated at $49.9billion across Australia . And this amount doesn’t include the direct costs that are contributed to those in the population who are overweight.
Just for the record that 65% of us who are overweight and obese. This isn’t an us VS them problem, it is “us” I’m talking about here.
This isn’t a shame and blame post either- “obese people are costing us money”. No, we, our society created this problem, we all created obesity as a disease. We as a society have a responsibility to help the people around us, because these people are 65% of us.
What really annoys me is that we know so much about obesity already. We know that when there are cycle paths and better walk ways it encourages people to be more active. We know that using standing desks in office jobs burns more energy and improves posture. We know that reducing the amount of fast food restaurants available on street corners, taxing soft drinks and reducing the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables works. But little has been done to action these known things that can help slow down obesity. Inaction is a clear demonstration of what matters.
Even on the severe high-risk end of the scale, for people who fall within the super obese or super-super obese category (BMI ≥50), there is very little for these people to obtain help. There are only two publicly funded obesity clinics in NSW, one of which only opened a month ago (Jan 2017). They are run on mainly part-time specialist staff with minimal access to publicly funded bariatric surgery and a waiting list.
This doesn’t make sense 35% of the population is obese BMI ≥30 and we have only two clinics working on the bare minimum because of lack of funding.
At this stage you are probably thinking “these people just gorge themselves so it’s their issue to fix”. And I’m going to tell you we know that obesity is directly related to income and social class. Those with the lowest education, live in the worst parts of suburban and rural NSW, have a higher degree of financial stress and poor mental health have the highest obesity rates.
Know that people don’t choose to live that way, and social class is what people are born into. Can you really blame obesity on the individual when social inequality is clearly the issue here?
We need a reality check on the perceptions of obesity in the media. Obesity isn’t a disease of gluttony. It’s a disease of inequality- the rich VS poor. Poorer people can’t afford healthy food, they can’t afford an education to teach them how to live better lives and look after themselves, they can’t afford to get the help they need.
The problem in healthcare is there is no money to fund services we need the most and we have people in political power health ministers that do not understand health. We have ministers who choose not to intervene in regulating the weight loss industry, an industry that has proven to only make people fatter.
What is the next step in fixing a system that is so broken?
 Economics, A., The growing cost of obesity in 2008: three years on. 2008