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Obesity costs $3.8bn – CCI

HOW much Australians are eating is not usually an area that interests business, except perhaps supermarket retailers and takeaway food companies. But the state of the nation’s obesity epidemic has prompted WA’s peak business and employer group, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA, to call for a national obesity prevention strategy to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle choices. The CCI has released a discussion paper that shows more than half of the adult population and about one in every four children is either overweight or obese. According to the CCI, obesity had an estimated financial cost of $3.8 billion in 2005, with lost productivity estimated to account for 45 per cent, or $1.7 billion. The discussion paper concludes that an absence of a national and comprehensive obesity plan is exacerbating the problem. “Despite the steady rise in prevalence of obesity over the past two decades, coordinated efforts to address the problem have been lacking,” the paper states. The paper also claims that a significant proportion of overweight and obese adults wrongly believe that their weight is within the acceptable range. Among the CCI’s recommendations are the establishment and maintenance of a national surveillance program to collect ongoing, relevant, high quality information on diet and physical activity. CCI WA chief executive John Langoulant said research showed obese people were less likely to be in the workforce and increasingly likely to be absent from work. But Mr Langoulant is keen to promote education rather than impose tax on food or advertising bans. “The answer to obesity lies with education, not another tax or further regulation,” he said. Julie-anne Sprague

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