By the National Reporting Team’s Natasha Robinson
It is a national epidemic that leaves its sufferers trapped inside their own bodies; isolated, depressed and misunderstood.
Obesity affects almost a quarter of Australians, but help can be almost impossible to find.
Renee Gilbert and her sister Zoe cannot ever remember a time their weight was normal.
“I was bullied from basically kindergarten until I finished year 12, just because I wasn’t as skinny as all the other girls in my year,” Zoe said.
“It was bringing me down, I thought I was worthless and not worth anything, and it just got too much.”
Australia’s powerful coalition of presidents of medical colleges is issuing a call to arms — a coordinated national approach to combat obesity is needed, and it is needed now.
It is a message that Renee and Zoe strongly endorse.
“You can’t get any help from the Government or the community, there needs to be more facilities and more support,” Renee said.
Federal Government efforts in recent years have focussed on the promotion of physical activity and voluntary food star rating system criticised as heavily flawed.
Chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) Professor Nick Talley has authored an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia today that says the lack of a coordinated national policy is unacceptable.
“It’s been bits and pieces. We need a plan, we need a strategy, we need a multi-pronged approach to a difficult problem,” Professor Talley said.
The Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges of Australia, which incorporates Australia’s 15 specialist medical colleges, developed a six-point plan following a summit last November to deal with the obesity crisis.
But since then, the policy vacuum has still not been filled and the college presidents are now calling for the Federal Government to adopt the plan as national policy.
“We’re offering an idea, obviously it can be modified by Government — that’s fine,” he said.
“But we need to put something in place, it should be a national priority.”
Australia lacks national-level obesity strategy
Jane Martin, the executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, welcomed the push from the medical colleges.
“Australia is really running behind on obesity prevention policy,” she said.
“We don’t have a strategy at a national level to deal with this really serious issue. Education campaigns alone are not enough.”