Naracoorte Lucindale obesity rates put under microscope

Two thirds of residents in the local council area are considered overweight or obese.

A recent study conducted by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, shows the high obesity rates in the Naracoorte/Lucindale region, along with the potential reasoning behind the statistics.

The study provides an extensive look at the obesity rate from council areas across the country, and the truth cannot be sugarcoated for the local council area.

The numbers aren't pretty for adult residents living in the Naracoorte/Lucindale district, with 32.9 per cent of adults being considered obese. When broken down, this means approximately 2029 adults in the region are considered obese.

When adults who are considered overweight are added to the data, the total overweight/obese percentage rises to 66.9 per cent (approximately 4104 adults).

Youths were also included into the study, with 5.5 per cent of the region's youth being considered obese.

Including children who are considered overweight, the total overweight/obese percentage rises to 22.7 per cent.

Professor Rosemary Calder from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University said action was needed to focus on prevention strategies in the most disadvantaged communities.

"We have spent too long as a nation expecting individuals to be able to change their behaviour to reduce their weight," professor Calder said.

"However, the evidence is very clear that this has little chance of success without a very strong focus on the environmental factors in the places where we live that contribute to poor nutrition and inactivity."

Professor Calder added it was no surprise that Australia's wealthy city suburbs have the lowest rates of obesity.

"These suburbs are usually green and leafy, with more space dedicated to parks, gardens and recreational facilities," professor Calder said.

"They often are well serviced by public transport, bike paths and are relatively close to where people work which enables people to be physically active in their commute to work, rather than rely on the car.

"They have a greater density of shops selling fresh fruit and veg, greater competition promoting lower prices for healthy foods and fewer fast food outlets."

People in wealthier suburbs tend to have better access to information about healthy diet and the financial means to access healthy food options and enjoyable physical activity.

Professor Calder said low socio-economic communities were often new suburbs and regional areas, and these places rarely have the physical infrastructure that supports healthy lifestyles.

She also said places with the highest rates of obesity, also have much higher rates of smoking, inactivity and chronic illness, highlighting the impact of poverty on health.

"Local governments are critical to local planning and the creation of healthy and active spaces for their residents. However, they are often hampered by lack of funding and regulatory power," professor Calder said.

The Australian Health Policy Collaboration, led by the Mitchell Institute, has a 2025 target of reducing Australia's adult obesity rate to 24.6 per cent.

Obesity has a string of health risks including diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, arthritis and dementia.

Supermarkets have an important role to play in reducing obesity rates, by ensuring there are more healthy options than unhealthy options for shoppers.

SA Health is making it easier for communities in rural and regional towns to eat healthy, with its annual SA Healthy Towns Challenge.

This challenge is a grant program aimed to develop preventive health programs in towns across the region.

Grants of up to $50,000 are provided to five or more towns across the state, with 2019 grant recipients already making use of their money.

Naracoorte and surrounding towns are encouraged to follow suit of previous grant recipients, Coorong, Yankalilla, Ceduna, Leigh Creek and the Barossa, and take a step towards a happier, healthier community.

Some examples of projects include establishing a farmers' market to increase access to affordable healthy food, conducting a health screening or upgrading community sporting facilities.

This challenge is part of the SA government's Healthy Communities Program, and enquiries for the next round of grants can be made via sahealth.sa.gov.au.

Across the nation, 91 per cent of young people, eight per cent of children and seven per cent of adults are not getting enough physical activity.

With the appropriate funding, education and support, the 32.9 per cent obesity statistic among adults in the Naracoorte/Lucindale region could reduce drastically.

Further information on the Mitchell Institutes' research can be found on their website.