The number of Australians struggling with their weight is now higher than ever, and the Riverina remains ahead of the pack.
New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week showed more than two thirds of Australians are now either overweight or obese.
This marked a considerable rise from the mid 90s, when just 56 per cent of the population were overweight.
In the Riverina, where the number of overweight or obese residents is consistently higher than the state’s average, this upward trend is particularly concerning.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s health promotion manager Christine May said she could not see that upward trend halting without two or three decades of work.
“We’re still over the state average, and I guess those figures aren’t going to come down straight away without a few decades of concentrated effort,” Ms May said.
“What we’ve got to contend with is the industry around quick weight loss and fadism, because instant results usually don’t work – people slip back if they haven’t made the necessary changes in their behaviour.”
In April, 35 per cent of adults in the MLHD’s catchment classified as obese, which was considerably higher than the NSW state average of just 21 per cent.
Those numbers contributed to a larger picture of regional Australians experiencing worse health outcomes, with 72 per cent classifying as overweight or obese compared with just 65 per cent of their major city counterparts.
Ms May said the city-regional divide came down to access to health services, lifestyle, and opportunities to stay fit and active.
“The rural factor is always there for us, because there’s higher levels of disadvantage and access is always reduced,” she said.
“In Sydney, you might have 10 choices for opportunities to get out an be physically active, but in a small rural area, you might only have one.
“Ours is not an easy environment in which you can be active – with cars and transport and the distance to work coupled with our busy lifestyles, double incomes, and families trying to do the best they can.”
The Get Healthy service is a free telephone coaching service for any adult wishing to make a positive lifestyle change. As well as the core module there are specialist modules for diabetes, Aboriginal people, pregnant women, and reducing alcohol consumption. It is easily accessible for anyone living in rural areas and those who follow the 10 week coaching plan report good results. No doctor’s referral is required. You can enrol by phoning 1300806258 or online at www.gethealthynsw.com.au