The problem

Prevalence

Obesity is a disease in which fat accumulates in the body, to the point where has an adverse effect on health. By common practice, obesity is measured in the Western world by a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or greater.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years. Between 1990 and 2005, the number of overweight and obese Australian adults increased by 2.8 million1.

Most worryingly, national data on the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children indicated 17% of 2-16-year-olds were overweight and 6% were obese2.

It is anticipated that at the current rate of increase, by 2020, 75% of the population will be overweight or obese and 65% of young Australians will be overweight or obese. This suggests a frightening progression of disease.

Graph of overweight, obesity and BMI in Australia 2008

Obesity and Diabetes

The link between type 2 diabetes and overweight/obesity is established beyond doubt.

The expected growth in the prevalence of obesity is the major reason for projections that, by 2023, type 2 diabetes will become the leading cause of disease burden for males and the second leading cause for females. If this occurs, annual healthcare costs for type 2 diabetes will increase from $1.3 billion in 2002/03 to $8 billion by 2032.3

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the fraction of diabetes which is directly attributable to obesity is 24%4. According to the AusDiab report in 2008, 275 new cases of type 2 diabetes occur each day.

The Cost of Obesity

New research published in 2010 shows the total direct cost of overweight and obesity in Australia is $21 billion a year, which is double previous estimates5. For the first time, the cost of "overweight" adults in Australia was calculated; costing $6.5 billion a year. The figures relate to health care costs such as hospitalisation, medical care and medications.

silhouettes of men from obese to thin

Solving the Problem

Obesity causes serious comorbidities, shortens life expectancy, reduces quality of life, and increases health care costs. An effective solution that is broadly acceptable is clearly needed.

It is predicted that overweight and obesity levels in Australia will continue to rise significantly in the next decade. These increases are expected to occur across all age groups and affect approximately two-thirds of the population6.

The research that we do at CORE aims to establish better understanding of the disease of obesity and its comorbidities and to identify optimal methods for the safe, cost-effective, long-term management of this disease. Additionally, we seek to identify preventive strategies that can be implemented in the community.

References

1. 2008. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Overweight and Obesity in adults, Australia, 2004-05. ABS Cat No. 4719.0. 2008, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4719.0Main%20Features22004-05?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4719.0&issue=2004-05&num=&view=, accessed 24/01/2012.

2. 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey: Main Findings. Prepared by Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Preventative Health National Research Flagship and the University of South Australia. Canberra: Australian Government. 2008. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/66596E8FC68FD1A3CA2574D50027DB86/$File/childrens-nut-phys-survey.pdf, accessed 24/01/2012.

3. Goss J 2008. Projection of Australian health care expenditure by disease, 2003 to 2033. Cat. no. HWE 43.Canberra: AIHW. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/hwe/pahced03-33/pahced03-33.pdf, accessed 24/01/2011.

4. Type 2 Diabetes Costs in Australia - the potential impact of changes in diet, physical activity and levels of obesity. Prepared by Dr Geoffrey C Marks, Dr Terry Coyne, Glen Pang. Canberra: Australian Food and Nutrition Monitoring Unit, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. 2001. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/5D90D4BB49311ED8CA256F190004C78A/$File/diabetes.pdf, accessed 13/01/2012

5. Colagiuri, S., Crystal, M.Y., Colagiuri, R., Magliano, D., Shaw, J.E., Zimmet, P.Z., and Caterson, I.D. The cost of overweight and obesity in Australia. MJA 2010; 192 (5): 260-264.

6. Sassi, F. et al. (2009), "The Obesity Epidemic: Analysis of Past and Projected Future Trends in Selected OECD Countries", OECD Health Working Papers, No. 45, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/225215402672. Available from: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/fulltext/5ksm2rwz9z7k.pdf?expires=1327364824&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=EDCB690363273D91678AAEBE10BBA7CD, accessed on 24/01/2012.