The George Institute supports Australia's first national health card

Australia’s Health Tracker (PDF), released today by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration (AHPC) at Victoria University and supported by 50 health and welfare organisations shows increased rates of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and dangerously high levels of salt and sugar consumption in Australian adults.

The results are also worrying for young adults with a quarter overweight and a staggering 90 percent not doing enough physical activity,

Director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University, Rosemary Calder, said: “We simply cannot accept that we are now one of the world’s fattest nations, with very high rates of heart disease and diabetes. Nor should we accept such high levels of risk among Australia’s children, knowing that this will lead to chronic yet preventable illness in their futures.”

Australia’s Heath Tracker – the first assessment of its kind – was launched in an effort to warn Australians, governments and industries that immediate and significant action is needed to fight diseases crippling the health system.

Vlado Perkovic, Executive Director of The George Institute Australia, said: “Investing in strategies to prevent chronic disease is not only good health policy, it is also good economic policy. Chronic diseases are easier and cheaper to prevent than to treat, and impact on our productivity. A broad societal approach is required.”

Key findings included:

  • 63.4 per cent of the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and 71.4 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is overweight or obese.
  • 44.5 per cent of the adult population is not doing enough physical activity.
  • Almost a quarter of the population has high blood pressure.
  • More than a third of total energy intake is from junk food in adult diets.
  • 12.8 percent of people over the age of 14 smoke daily.
  • There are currently 207 deaths per 100,000 from CVD, stroke, common cancers and chronic respiratory disease. The aim by 2050 is to reduce this to 166 per 100,000.

Bruce Neal, director of the Food Policy Division at The George, added: “This rise in obesity hasn’t happened because people have turned into sloths and gluttons.  It’s because we now live in a world where having everyone eat unhealthy food, all the time at very low cost makes huge profits for some very large corporations. And no government in the last twenty years has fully taken this on.”

"We have to use policy levers that change the food environment and allow people to live healthy lives again.”

There was however no mention of Australia’s most burdensome group of chronic diseases – musculoskeletal conditions which affect a quarter of the Australian population. Professor Chris Maher, head of the musculoskeletal unit at The George Institute, said: “Conditions such as arthritis and back pain are incredibly common but all too often overlooked. They need more attention and research into their prevention and management should be a much greater priority.”

Professor Neal joined experts from more than 80 organisations including the National Stroke Foundation, the National Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council Australia at a national forum in Melbourne today (July 5) to discuss strategies to combat preventable chronic diseases and drive national agenda for change.

Read the Australia's Health Tracker report (PDF).