Obesity reduction for health

The World Health Organisation defines overweight and obesity as ‘abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health’, and it raises the risk of other health issues including cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and Type 2 Diabetes.  Obesity is caused by an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended, with dietary changes, sedentary lifestyles, environmental factors, heredity, genetics and epi-genetics all contributing.

Obesity prevalence tripled between 1975 and 2014, with over 1.9 billion adults overweight and 650 million obese in 2016, that’s 39% and 13% of the global adult population respectively.  Obesity now kills more people worldwide than underweight

5.5% of the Australian disease and injury burden in 2011 was attributable to obesity, it impacted two thirds of Australia’s adult population in 2014-15, cost Australia $11.8 billion dollars in health and community costs in 2018. The World Obesity Federation estimates that the cost of treating obesity-related diseases in Australia will rise from $12 billion in 2014 to $21 billion annually by 2025.

Supporting health improvement

The good news is that obesity and overweight are can be prevented, managed and reversed by maintaining a healthy diet and being physically active, and physical activity may even have a positive impact where genetic risk factors are present.  There are a range of medications, diets and fitness programs that all promise weight-loss, but the growing obesity rates tend to indicate that they are ineffective, or out of reach, for many who need them most.

Community sport-based programs have demonstrated success supporting participants improve their health and achieve clinically significant weight loss.  Whilst these programs can be delivered in communities that face health disadvantage, access to these programs is currently limited, and they need further study, and the resources to grow.

Sport Prescriptions will make it easier to establish, measure and describe program impact, assist in identifying what works best and how to improve.  It will also help build a case for resource allocation so programs can grow and more people can benefit.