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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

New obesity report sheds light on key gaps, but where is the government plan to fund it?

Health Industry Hub | November 28, 2022 |

Pharma News: Approximately two thirds of Australian adults live with overweight or obesity, one of the highest in the world. In presenting a close examination of Australia’s strengths in obesity research and priority areas for further research investment, Research Australia launched the Obesity Research report – developed in partnership with Novo Nordisk – at Parliament House on 24th November.

According to the report, the National Obesity Strategy and other obesity policies should be accompanied by dedicated research funding to deliver the vision of “an Australia that encourages and enables healthy weight and healthy living for all”. The Strategy was announced by the Government in March 2022 and is a 10-year framework for action to prevent, reduce and treat overweight and obesity in Australia.

Over 50% of obesity research funding comes from the Federal Government, this is followed by Australian universities and research institutions (24%) and the philanthropic sector (22%). While 75% of Australians think it is very/extremely important to enable people living with obesity to access early and appropriate support and treatment, almost no obesity prevention or treatment research actively involves people with lived experience as co-researchers.

Dr Sophie Anna Scamps, Mackellar’s independent MP, stated “We know that 87% of deaths in Australia are linked to chronic illness, and almost 40% of chronic diseases can be prevented by addressing lifestyle factors. The National Preventive Health Strategy recommends that a target of 5% of the health budget be dedicated to preventive health. However, this budget does not deliver on that. Most notably, one of the biggest risk factors to many chronic diseases, obesity, isn’t addressed. The budget does not mention, let alone invest in, the newly announced National Obesity Strategy. This is a powerful strategy, but it will have no benefit sitting as a pile of papers on the minister’s desk.”

Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said “I’m talking to groups in the community about the obesity strategy. Again, it’s a very good-looking document, but it’s not going to change much if we don’t find ways to turn it into a funded action plan. I’m very committed to that. I must say that, in the 10 years I’ve been out of the health portfolio…obesity rates have deteriorated dramatically to the point where they are some of the worst in the world. This must be a focus of the health portfolio over the course of this decade.”

Speakers at the launch event included Professor Steven Allender from Deakin University, the Hon Ged Kearney MP, Gavin Peace MP, Dr Bev Muhlhausler who is the Research Director of the Nutrition and Health Program in the Health and Biosecurity Unit at CSIRO, Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin and Novo Nordisk Oceania VP Cem Ozenc.

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