Technical Paper 1:
Obesity in Australia: a need for urgent action
3.2.4 - Role of individuals
All Australians share responsibility for individual and population health, and the success of the health system.
- As individuals, each Australian makes choices about personal lifestyle and behaviours. These are shaped by physical and social circumstances, life opportunities and environment.
- The health system is funded by the community, and, as patients, community members make decisions about how to use the health system.
- The health system has an important role to play in helping people to become more self-reliant and better able to make the best choices to manage their own healthcare needs. This includes helping people, both as individuals and as a community, to make informed decisions on issues such as smoking, alcohol consumption, a healthy diet and adequate physical activity.
With the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity nationwide, it appears that Australians may perceive being overweight as ‘normal’ and hence many overweight people may not consider that they have a problem. For example, only around one-third of Australian adults in the 2004–2005 National Health Survey considered themselves to be overweight (32% of males and 37% of females). This was substantially lower than the actual rates based on BMI calculated from self-reported height and weight: 62% of males and 45% of females in the survey were classified as overweight or obese. In addition, trends suggest that overweight or obese adults are increasingly likely to see themselves as having an acceptable weight. The proportion of overweight or obese Australians who perceived themselves as having an acceptable weight increased from 37% in 1995 to 41% in 2001 and 44% in 2004–2005.