Bush communities need targeted obesity strategy

27 April 2011

The development of a targeted strategy to address obesity in rural and remote Australia should
be a priority for the Federal Government‟s National Food Plan, according to Gordon Gregory,
Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance.
“Obesity is particularly prevalent among men and women in the most disadvantaged
socioeconomic groups, including some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and
some people living in rural and remote Australia,” Mr Gregory said.
The Alliance believes development of a National Food Plan, as signalled by the
Commonwealth in August 2010, has the potential to make a significant impact on obesity by
addressing issues such as food affordability and the quality and sustainability of food
production in Australia.
Among priority recommendations at the 11th National Rural Health Conference was the view
that food sovereignty and security are critical issues for Australia (www.ruralhealth.org.au).
Health issues and influences on behaviours differ between metropolitan and rural and remote
areas. This means that strategies and campaigns for health problems such as obesity will need
to be specifically designed for the bush. Social marketing campaigns and regulatory change
may well have different impacts in remote areas - as evidenced by the relative difficulty of
reducing smoking in rural and remote areas.
“There are a number of current campaigns aimed at preventing or reducing obesity, including
several funded by the Federal Government. Most of them target whole State or national
populations but there are very few that specifically target people living in rural and remote
communities. For rural areas in particular, local engagement and control of the program is
vital,” Mr Gregory said.
The Alliance believes the impact of obesity may be greater for those in rural and regional
areas than it is for people in major cities. This is because obesity adds to the inherent risk of
almost any health condition or intervention, increasing the chances of a patient having to be
referred to a higher level of care away from their small town or isolated area.
Further information on existing programs is available in the „Obesity in rural Australia‟ Fact
Sheet available on the Alliance website.