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Health alliance urges action on chronic disease as new data reveals COVID impact

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Leading health groups are urging the Federal Government to invest in actions to support healthy eating and active living as part of the National Preventive Health Strategy, as a new report highlights high rates of overweight and obesity as an ongoing concern.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released its Australia’s health 2022 report, which paints a picture of our health in the wake of COVID-19.

Nearly one-in-two Australians are living with a chronic disease and one-in-five Australians are living with multiple conditions. Two out of every three Australians are overweight or obese, and one in four children are overweight or obese.

A huge amount of chronic disease burden – nearly 40 percent – could be prevented by reducing risk factors like unhealthy diets, smoking, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and high blood pressure.

Chair of ACDPA and CEO of Kidney Health Australia, Chris Forbes

Unhealthy diets and overweight and obesity are major risk factors for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and certain cancers.

The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) – comprised of the Heart Foundation, Cancer Council Australia, Kidney Health Australia, Diabetes Australia and Stroke Foundation – is calling on the Federal Government to respond by investing in the National Preventive Health Strategy and supporting actions that enable Australians to eat well and move more.

“The new report shows that many of us are overweight or obese, which puts us at risk of developing one or more chronic conditions,” Chris Forbes, chair of ACDPA and CEO of Kidney Health Australia, said.

“A huge amount of chronic disease burden – nearly 40 percent – could be prevented by reducing risk factors like unhealthy diets, smoking, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and high blood pressure.”

Australia is lagging behind other OECD countries on reducing overweight and obesity, so we must do more to protect the future health and wellbeing of Australians.

Chris Forbes

“The National Preventive Health Strategy was released last year with a focus on healthy eating and physical activity, but it needs funding to achieve real gains.”

The new health report shows that deaths from chronic diseases were higher than expected in early 2022, while access to GP management plans for chronic conditions dipped during COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns.

“The pandemic has had an enormous impact on the health of Australians,” Forbes said.

“Supporting Australians to reduce their risk of chronic disease would keep more of us healthy and out of hospitals at a time of great strain on our healthcare system. It really is a win-win.

“Australia is lagging behind other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries on reducing overweight and obesity, so we must do more to protect the future health and wellbeing of Australians.”

Forbes said that in the meantime, the ACDPA encourages people to visit their website, where they have some handy advice on how to reduce your risk of chronic disease.

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