Overweight and Obesity

Obesity and lifestyle-related chronic conditions place considerable burden upon individuals and these conditions are complex, long-term public health problems.

Page last updated: 19 June 2019

In 2017-18, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey showed that two thirds (67.0%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15. The National Health Survey also indicated that almost one quarter (24.9%) of children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese in 2017-18 (17% overweight and 8.1% obese).

Addressing overweight and obesity in Australia requires a multi-faceted, community wide approach. The Department of Health implements a broad range of preventive health measures to tackle obesity in Australia. These measures provide evidence-based population health information so that individuals and families are in the best position to make informed decisions and take control of their own health and wellbeing. Sustainable long term behavioural change comes from individuals and families taking charge of their own decisions regarding what to eat and how they choose to be physically active.

National Obesity Summit

At the 12 October 2018 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council (CHC) meeting, Ministers agreed that a National Obesity Strategy would be developed and that the first phase of the development process would include a Commonwealth funded National Obesity Summit.

The National Obesity Summit was held in Canberra on 15 February 2019 and was attended by approximately 120 participants from government, academia/research, medical and public health organisations, the food industry and consumer groups.

The National Obesity Summit brought together experts in obesity to explore factors leading to overweight and obesity and to identify and agree on priority areas for action (for inclusion in the Strategy). The National Obesity Summit Summary of Proceedings (Word 1049 KB) report is now available to download. This report should be read in conjunction with the Summit Program (Word 2925 KB), which provides speaker biographies and a short summary of each presentation topic.

The following National Obesity Summit speaker’s presentations are available to download. These include:

Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia

The Select Committee into the obesity epidemic in Australia was established on 16 May 2018 to inquire into and report on the following matters:
  1. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in Australia and changes in these rates over time;
  2. The causes of the rise in overweight and obesity in Australia;
  3. The short and long-term harm to health associated with obesity, particularly in children in Australia;
  4. The short and long-term economic burden of obesity, particularly related to obesity in children in Australia;
  5. The effectiveness of existing policies and programs introduced by Australian governments to improve diets and prevent childhood obesity;
  6. Evidence-based measures and interventions to prevent and reverse childhood obesity, including experiences from overseas jurisdictions;
  7. The role of the food industry in contributing to poor diets and childhood obesity in Australia; and
  8. Any other related matters.
Information about the Select Committee into the Obesity Epidemic in Australia, including the Final Report are available.

Further Information

Further information about the measures the Department of Health implements can be found below.
  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines (the Guidelines) provide up-to-date advice about the amount and kinds of foods that should be eaten for health and wellbeing. The recommendations are based on scientific evidence, developed after looking at good quality research.
  • The Health Star Rating is a front-of-pack labelling system that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from a star to 5 stars. It provides a quick, easy, standard way to compare similar packaged foods. The more stars, the healthier the choice.
  • The Healthy Food Partnership provides a mechanism for government, the public health sector and the food industry to cooperatively tackle obesity, encourage healthy eating and empower food manufacturers to make positive changes.
  • Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are available for children, young people, adults and older Australians and provide guidance on what duration and intensity of exercise and sedentary behaviour is considered appropriate for each age group to benefit their overall health and wellbeing.
  • The Clinical Practice Guidelines Portal provides access to clinical practice guidelines produced for Australian practice that have been assessed against selection criteria modified from the United States' National Guidelines Clearinghouse, and adapted to the Australian context.
  • The Healthy Weight Guide is a comprehensive source of information available to the Australian public on how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It is based on recent Australian and international research and has been developed by the Australian Government.
  • The Girls Make Your Move campaign aims to inspire, energise and empower young women to be more active through physical activities and sports.

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