Tackle Obesity Very Early, Australian Experts Suggest

by Medindia Content Team on Aug 30 2007 3:11 PM

A committee of Australian experts has demanded that the battle against the burgeoning obesity epidemic start very early, when children are brought in for immunisation.

Those children would be weighed and overweight and obese preschoolers then given health checks - the whole exercise would be claimable under Medicare, as per a 14-point plan released Wednesday by a group of Australian experts.

Prof Ian Caterson, deputy chairman of the Healthy Lifestyle Forum to Help Combat Childhood Obesity, said it was hoped weighing children at their scheduled immunisations would highlight at-risk youngsters before other health problems developed.

The Immunise Australia Program funds purchase of vaccines against a whole range of disease including polio, diphtheria and chickenpox.

"The big problem is that when there are obese children with no other diseases there is no way of getting them into the health system and managed," Caterson said.

"The idea of this is to start treating things before they do develop problems, such as problems with their hips or diabetes later in life."

Prof Caterson said a new Medicare rebate should be created to refund parents whose children were referred for more comprehensive health checks after being weighed at an immunisation session.

The forum's 14-point plan also called for:

OBESITY to be made a national health priority, including the establishment of a Cabinet taskforce of federal health, education, agriculture, treasury, trade and transport ministers, as well as industry leaders.

AN accreditation system for family-friendly workplaces that promote good nutrition and physical exercise for employees and their children.

A NATIONAL food labelling system that allows parents and children to easily identify foods that are good for them.

BETTER training of health and medical experts to allow them to offer greater and more consistent nutrition and physical activity advice.

A FREQUENT, long-term program to monitor body measurements, nutrition intake and physical activity for children.

"The growing trend towards overweight and obesity in Australian youth . . . needs immediate action in multiple areas," Prof Caterson said.

The recommendations will be sent to the Federal Government.