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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 7 Hansard (6 August) . .

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Other health risks include high blood pressure, some forms of arthritis and some cancers. Obesity's impact on life expectancy is similar to smoking, with research finding a loss of between two and 10 years depending on the level of obesity. It is also a real impact on the economy through productivity losses. Nationally, obese employees have 14 per cent higher absenteeism due to illness compared to the healthy weight working population.

Based on the available evidence, it is very likely that the impact of overweight and obesity on quality of life, primary health care and the ACT economy are growing. Chronic conditions account for approximately 80 per cent of the burden of disease and injury in the ACT, and many of these have obesity as a risk factor.

In order to provide improved health services for people at very high weight levels, the ACT government funded an obesity management service in the 2013-14 budget following the obesity service redesign project. The service aims to support patients to achieve a healthier lifestyle and reduced risk profiles. The service is for adults with a high level of obesity whose body mass index is 40 or over and who have one or more medical problems. The service will work collaboratively with patients' GPs and also healthcare professionals to encourage positive lifestyle change through group education classes, nutrition plans, physical activity programs and other support services.

Ultimately, it is all about supporting people at very high weight levels to improve their health. Additionally, the ACT government has announced the introduction of publicly funded bariatric surgery where this is clinically required for people with severe obesity and related medical conditions. The ACT government recognises that, along with offering a range of treatment options, the most effective way to tackle this problem is through prevention and that we need to take active steps to reduce and to prevent levels of overweight and obesity in the ACT.

We have learnt the lesson that prevention works and can save lives from Australia's strong track record of success in public health intervention across our communities. Prevention works. We have prevented deaths and illnesses caused by smoking, from excessive sun exposure and from road traffic accidents. A recent survey commissioned by ACT Health showed that the ACT community strongly supports the government taking active steps to reduce levels of overweight and obesity in the ACT community as they feel it is a major problem in the ACT.

Support was strongest for interventions targeted at children, particularly within the school setting. Appropriate levels of physical activity and a balanced diet are the fundamental requirements for a healthy body weight. Individual medical and surgical treatments are not enough. Even a small degree of weight loss can bring health benefits such as lower cardiovascular risk.

Multiplied across the ACT population, these small effects can have a large impact on the burden of disease in the community and the overall cost of providing health services. In October 2013 the ACT government released its towards zero growth healthy weight action plan. It recognised that many of the factors that contribute to


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