NEW data confirms Ballarat is among the third-fattest region in the nation, but the city’s health experts warn there is more to this growing figure than a bulging label.
Regional Australia has weighed-up on top of the latest overweight and obesity rates figures, released on Thursday with 70.1 per cent of adults in western Victoria deemed too large.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report follows a separate report by the Australian Health Policy Collaboration late last month that declared Wendouree had an obesity rate exceeding 70 per cent. Measures were by body mass index.
Ballarat Community Health dietitian Kerri Gordon said the focus should be on preventative help rather than shaming figures, like finding other coping mechanisms for stress, education and access to healthier food.
“We understand it’s really tough to lose weight. We need to think about the bigger picture,” Ms Gordon said.
“There can be a lot of pressure on food or not having a good relationship with food growing up and that continues into adult life.”
Ms Gordon said the disparity between regional and metropolitan health, was often due to lower incomes, more expensive healthier food and there were more limitations in access to obesity and prevention services, including places to exercise.
Ballarat Health Services healthy weight management department agreed. The team’s focus is helping people make small lifestyle changes, with a holistic approach, rather than focusing too much on scales.
BHS dietitian Kate Falconer said weight loss was complex, involving fuel, healthy thinking and movement.
“We are aware of a growing obesity rate and the last 10 years it has escalated, particularly regionally,” Ms Falconer said. "...What we are saying is for (everyone) to focus on small sustainable changes because we know slower weight loss is more successful in staying off.”
Western Victoria Primary Health Network medical advisor Jane Opie said the report was still a wake-up call for communities. Dr Opie urged policy makers to also adopting a broader preventative approach.