There has been some rare good news from the United States which could serve as an interesting lesson for both Australia and Ballarat.
For the first time in 30 years, the obesity rate among children has fallen. In 1998, obesity levels were at 13.05 per cent of children. This rose to a peak of 15.36 per cent in 2004 before declining to 14.94 per cent in 2010. The data was drawn from no less than 27.5 million children, of whom a staggering 4.1 million remain obese. So the drop may seem like a small victory but given the rates of obesity have more than trebled since the 1980s this is a very significant step.
But it has also highlighted that preventative programs like SNAP, a federally funded health initiative based around food stamps, is getting results when it is targeted and based around quality. For a complex problem, the solution to generational obesity is remarkably straightforward; eat less and better and exercise more. However, as America shows, implementing this theory on a wide and effective level is enormously complicated and expensive. But we are already realising in Ballarat the cost of not taking preventative measures is far greater.
The Courier has been at the forefront of advocating for the need for a specialized CPAV ambulance in Western Victoria to help in the assistance of very large and special needs patients. The absence of this important bit of equipment is clearly an issue around limited resources in a sector perpetually juggling priorities and too often knocked back by cash-strapped governments.
But it is also clear that this kind of costly, specialised equipment is only the beginning of enormous and additional financial pressure on our health system if Australia does not reverse the obesity trend which in many ways has mirrored the United States.
In the great scheme of health costs, preventative measures like nutrition and exercise programs well delivered are a bargain with recurring benefits. But they cannot succeed alone without guidance and example.
The CPAV issue will not go away but we can all act to ensure that even more are not needed as the problem balloons. The magnitude of that future problem lies with the children of today. Now that the festive season of indulgence is behind us and holiday activity awaits, it might be an opportune time for Ballarat parents to reconsider what we would like that future to be like for our kids and start taking steps today.