There has been a significant increase in the health care cost associated with obesity treatment in Australia over the recent years Infact the treatment cost associated with provision of heath care for overweight, obese or physically inactive people approximates to $10.8 billion that is greater than the NSW health budget.
Obesity is becoming a major public health concern of late, with the annual expenditure approximating to 6% of the national health budget. It also leads to a significant loss in productivity. The burden is only likely to increase in the future, if appropriate steps are not taken by the federal government to provide incentives through the Medicare plan.
Paul Gross, Director, Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment has urged the Government to take immediate action through use of private health funds. Such funds are being used for provision of incentives to members in Britain and U.S. to stay fit and healthy.
It is estimated that for every percentage increase in body mass index (BMI), there would be a 2.3% rise in the national healthcare expenditure. Alarmingly, a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that there has been a 9% increase in obese individuals over the last 10 years. This can be partly attributed to the lack of public funds for provision of incentives to encourage weight reduction programs.
In order to change the present situation, GPs have to be encouraged to participate in integrated obesity management taking into consideration several factors such as food consumption, physical activity and lifestyle. Additionally, exercise physiologists and dieticians could also be involved in the process to make it more effective. This would ensure that the heath care is being provided through a multi-disciplinary approach.
'The Government supports measures that encourage healthy lifestyles ... and is currently considering changes to private health insurance that promote wellness and prevention. Incentives could also be offered to employers to create opportunities for employees to undertake programs such as tax breaks or reduced workers comp premiums,' concluded a spokeswoman for the Health Minister.