finance segment with Ross Greenwood on the channel 9 Today Show
recently. He was talking about the national debt in Australia and how
soon, taxes would need to go up in order to pay the interest of the
government loans. GST, personal and company tax would be affected. He
said the biggest expense is the health system and with a growing
population and health crisis, it was only going to get worse.I felt a little pissed off, because I don’t use the health system unless
there is an emergency (accident), I look after myself through food and
lifestyle and I doubt I would be a burden on the health system, so why
should my taxes go up? I also thought that it’s not that hard to change
the health of an individual so it can’t be that hard to change the
health of a nation. Surely – one person at a time. We know that food
has a huge part to play in health, so why not change the food system?
Perhaps I was being a little naïve as there is more at play here such as
money, greed and politics being the main players in the health crisis.
The same week I got an email from my friends Sharny and Julius from
sharnyandjulius.com. Julius thinks differently about every aspect of
his life and he had just read Obesty: A National Epidemic and its Impact
on Australia. Before I tell you what Julius said, let’s first look at
the contents of the report by Obesity Australia.
Firstly, who is Obesity Australia? They are a group of scientist who
have a mission to drive change in the public perceptions of obesity, its
prevention and its treatment by:
- Providing leadership and independent advice to inform sound policy
- Building recognition of the personal, social and economic effects of obesity
- Changing entrenched attitudes
- Independently evaluating what works and what doesn’t work in the Australian context
- Showcasing the best science on how and why obesity occurs so it
provides a base for effective community response and government funding.
We will highlight current knowledge of obesity, drawing on a wealth of
scientific and medical knowledge, based on research reviewed by our
Scientific Advisory Council, experts in their field around Australia
& New Zealand.
in their field – public affairs, politics, health and public policy.That all seems very nice and dandy and the picture below is on their mission statement page.
The report put out by Obesity Australia doesn’t seem to have anything to
do with the above photo and their conclusions are by no means about
Firstly the report put out by Obesity Australia was funded by an
unrestricted grant from Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals P/L and the
scientific advisory committee for the report included members of Baker
IDI – an organisation supported by many drug companies as well as
research professors from universities around Australia.
In the report, obesity is described by WHO as abnormal or excessive fat
accumulation that present a risk to an individual health. It is
measured by a BMI of 30.
Obesity in Australia, England and the USA has risen rapidly since 1990.
Obesity Australia believes that the drivers of obesity are that 90% of
the population are predisposed genetically to be fat and obese and that
it is the imbalance of calories in, energy out.
My question: if 69.7% of the male population, 56.7% of the female
population and 25.7% of our children are overweight and obese, what is
the other percentage of the population doing with the obese genes but
are not overweight or obese? Therefore genetics may not be the main
The Obesity Australia report also points out that epigenetics plays a
part, their whole blame is on the mother, her pregnancy and what she
eats. A pregnant woman can’t eat too little or too much or the result
will cause obesity as the child grows into an adult. Parenting is also
at fault in the first two years of life. Basically the report says if you
got it wrong during pregnancy and childhood then corrective efforts
later in life would be in vain.
There are many complications to obesity as outlined in the report
including, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, kidney dysfunction, type
2 diabetes, cognitive impairment and depression, cancer, fatty liver
disease and osteoarthritis. The management of obesity should be
prevention and intervention, lifestyle modifications, medications and
The cost of obesity in Australia is estimated to be a whopping $58.2
billion where the federal government bore the cost of 34.3%, the
individual 29.4%, families 19.2%, state government 5.1%, employers .1%
and the rest of society 11.8%.
The conclusion of the report was to define obesity as a ‘disease’ and to
gain additional federal support to stop the epidemic. This in turn
would save billions of Australian tax dollars and improve the health and
wellbeing of Australia, now and for future generations. Therefore the
report says there is no time to wait.
Two things are key, states the report; firstly education in food and
health literacy and secondly effective and safe obesity therapies with
minimal side effects. The solution is to find medications for the
disease of established obesity. The two key drivers are media and
medical practitioners directing pharmaceutical, accredited multi faceted
weight maintenance programs.
If you are not alarmed by the conclusions then you should read it
again. Firstly – much of the media is owned by companies that also have
an interest in pharmaceutical companies. Doctors do between two and 12
hours of nutrition in their entire university course and are taught to
diagnose and treat with medications. The executive call to action is
for the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and medical colleges to
formally recognise obesity as a disease.
It was Julius who bought up the following facts to me.
informed investors and shareholders that liraglutide (a new drug) was in
phase three of clinical trials as a weight loss drug. The press release
also stated that this drug had the potential to earn $20.00 per obese
patient per day. If we average that out over the Australian Obese
population that equates to 6.3 million people at $20.00 per day which
totals $6.6 billion. That’s a nice yearly income for one drug, for one
company.The fact that the report said that the federal government was to come to
the party was in fact saying that the cost of this drug to the
Australian people should be paid for by the government through the –
prescribing benefits scheme (PBS).
Now here is the clincher. The only way that is going to happen is if
obesity is recognised as a ‘disease’ by the AMA and medical schools
around the country. Even a third grader could easily diagnose obesity
with the BMI (body mass index) then prescribe the drug liraglutide –
it’s a no brainer.
On top of that, Julian also pointed out that by recognising obesity as a
disease, prevention and intervention for obesity could also receive
greater funding from both public and private health.
While the American Medical Association recognized obesity as a disease
in 2013, the Australian Medical Association is divided on the
classification. The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr
Steve Hambleton, said that while the AMA has and will continue to
consider the proposal, Australia would not be following suit just yet.
making it a disease change the way we interact with it? Also, if you
make this a medical portfolio, then it lets the other portfolios off the
hook. Preventing and treating obesity needs to be a whole of government
approach.” I’d say that’s passing the buck Dr Steve.
countless reports on the obesity epidemic, very few recommendations have
been adopted and those that have are now being opposed.
that obesity is an iatrogenic predicament perpetuated by many factors
each having a part to play in the sickness of the human body, which in
turn causes physical and mental ill health. The food, chemical and drug
industry have a lot to answer for.
thing to do about the obesity epidemic is not to be a part of it. Don’t
wait for a label, a medical diagnosis or for the government to step
in. It is about becoming educated about food, medicine and lifestyle
and realise that our evolutionary bodies require certain things for
health. Evolutionary foods, sunlight, movement, sleep and
relationships, these are the cornerstones to stopping the epidemic.
Become the person that leads your family away from the current trend of
sickness, and create an atmosphere of health and wellbeing that is
compelling, so by example we may just be able to change the direction
Australia is now heading in.