// Turning the tide: Obesity Prevention Australia

by Levi Walz

 

Fitness facility owners and managers are at the frontline in the ongoing battle against obesity and overweight. A large proportion of members will have joined your facility with the aim of losing weight, and with the right environment and support, many of them will do so. However, despite the increase in gym memberships over the past decade and improved awareness about health nutrition, the media continues to report alarming – and growing – obesity statistics. So, what can be done to turn the tide of obesity?

At some point you have probably found yourself wondering how, or if, it is even possible to:

  • reverse Australia’s rapidly rising obesity rate
  • stop the development of chronic metabolic disease that is crippling our nation and choking our health care system and hospitals
  • reduce the availability of nutritionally deficient, highly processed foods
  • protect our children from all of the above while providing them with the skills, habits and support required to grow up healthy?

Barriers to success

In order to make progress towards achieving any of these goals, we need to ask a few pertinent questions. Is it possible for parents who are currently failing in their own efforts to stay healthy and maintain their weight to stop the trend, and raise fit and healthy children without help? With budget restraints, a health care system that is already overburdened and an ageing and increasingly ill population, will the government be able to fund a solution? Will school education departments include nutrition education within their curriculum when literacy and numeracy levels are sliding, and teacher’s schedules are already full?

Solutions

Prevention or cure, proactive or reactive – which approach will provide long term change? There appears to be a plethora of potential solutions, but are any worthwhile?

Reactive

  • Subsidised gastric banding for anyone with a BMI over 35 (don’t laugh – this suggestion has been put forward).
  • More hospitals, doctors, cheaper medication and more surgery.
  • Crossing our fingers and hoping a new super pill will be developed that will allow us to continue leading unhealthy lifestyles without negative consequences.

Proactive

  • More government funding focused on prevention and education programs.
  • Awareness campaigns and community education.
  • Subsidised gym memberships, fitness sessions and tax deductions for all health purchases.
  • Stronger laws and restrictions on the foods/drinks that can be sold to minors.

If current trends continue, it is estimated that 80 per cent of all Australian adults will be overweight or obese by 2020. This is a potential statistic that everyone within the allied health and fitness industries must fight together. The proactive, preventative approach is surely the only one capable of making long term health changes and reversing the current obesity rate.

Introducing Obesity Prevention Australia

Obesity Prevention Australia (OPA) Inc is a non-profit organisation committed to reversing the obesity and inactivity epidemic that is debilitating our nation. OPA believes that Education + Implementation + Awareness = Empowerment. The more a person knows, the more they act upon that knowledge – and the more they reflect upon the results of their actions, the more empowered they become.
Although many industries are making gestures to improve the health of Australians, it seems as though these aren’t having much effect. Funding is needed to create change, but there is simply not enough funding available for the government to implement the necessary wide scale preventative initiatives required for real change. For this reason, Obesity Prevention Australia has committed to raising the funding required to implement programs that educate and empower all Australians.

Obesity Prevention Week

Starting in October 2011, Obesity Prevention Week will involve schools, corporate business, government, health professionals, councils, sports clubs and, most importantly, the entire Australian public.
Plans include:

  • Gyms offering free entry for the week and running other promotions.
  • Personal trainers offering free or discounted sessions.
  • Schools across the nation participating and raising money for the cause while getting their students active and eating healthily.
  • A nationwide two-month weight loss challenge (October to December) where participants will ‘donate their fat’ to charity in an attempt to raise money for healthy lifestyle awareness programs. As they lose weight they start to create healthy habits.
  • Food suppliers such as Woolworths, Coles, IGA and local fruit markets raising money within their stores, promoting the healthy lifestyle message and removing highly processed foods from their sales counters for the week.
  • Federal, state and local governments helping to provide support and/or funding.
  • Sports clubs making a push for new members and running ‘come try’ days within the week.
  • Corporate Australia helping to raise funds for Obesity Prevention Australia programs or providing support and involvement throughout the week.

Imagine, during this week, that not one Australian could do their shopping, meet with their friends, turn on the television or send their children to school without:

  • becoming immersed in the healthy lifestyle message
  • feeling compelled to get active and improve their diet
  • being offered no-cost solutions that promote long term lifestyle change rather than quick fixes
  • being able to get involved easily
  • increasing their knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyle actions.

Getting involved

In addition to the positivity that comes with helping to provide a service and using your expertise to change the future health of our country, fitness facilities can capitalise on the opportunity presented by Obesity Prevention Week to sign up new members. Meanwhile, personal trainers can also take advantage of the heightened awareness to recruit new clients, and generate new leads from people searching for their services.

It is over a year away, but if you are interested in becoming involved in Obesity Prevention Week, visit www.obesityprevention.com.au and become a supporter, or visit the Obesity Prevention Week section and register your services for the event. OPA will then contact you with more information about becoming involved.

 

Levi Walz, BHSc
Levi is the CEO of Obesity Prevention Australia and has been a qualified personal trainer since 2001. He is a founding director of FITKIDS Australia and is also a nutritionist, naturopath, and trainer and assessor.


NETWORK MAGAZINE • WINTER 2010
• PP40-41