The Federal Government could halt the spread of Australia's childhood diabetes and obesity epidemic within just one year, experts have revealed in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
But Professor Paul Zimmet, Director of the International Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, and Professor Philip James, Chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce in London, say the reversal of the 'diabesity' epidemic requires substantial policy-driven changes to our living conditions and environment, as well as the need for individuals to pursue healthy nutrition and exercise behaviours.
"We could arrest the development of obesity in children and adolescents within a year of introducing a coherent program," Prof Zimmet said.
"The modern commercial drive to market unhealthy foods everywhere and seduce us into ever more sedentary leisure means we are facing a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of obesity and diabetes.
"Our state and federal politicians need to accept that major legislative and other regulatory measures are needed."
Obesity is a driving force behind Type 2 diabetes, which carries serious health consequences including cardiovascular complications, kidney failure, and blindness.
Profs Zimmet and James first recommend banning food marketing targeted at children, and establishing strict food and physical activity requirements for schools.
In addition, they say junk foods and drinks should be removed from all publicly-funded premises, all products should have clear nutritional labelling, and products high in fat or sugar should be more expensive than healthy fresh food.
Finally they suggest requiring urban environments to favour pedestrians and cyclists.
"The prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes requires coordinated policy and legislative changes," says Prof Zimmet.
He called on health professionals to take the lead in influencing politicians to respond to the growing epidemic which is set to have a significant impact on the economy not only on health costs but also through workforce productivity.
"The recent recognition of this by COAG and its commitment to action was encouraging and a sign that the message was being heard at last," Prof Zimmet says.
"Our medical leaders must recognise their crucial role in supporting this, and Federal and State politicians must look beyond the next election."