The obesity battle is being lost – GPs reveal

GPs fear the battle against obesity has been lost among adults and attention should be focused on ensuring our children have a chance at a healthy future, according to exclusive research conducted by Diabetes Queensland.  

Diabetes Queensland CEO Michelle Trute said their in-depth interviews with GPs across Queensland found the majority spent almost half their time dealing with obesity-related conditions and illnesses.


"We found obesity-related conditions are swelling GP waiting rooms and making it harrder for doctors to deliver care and for patients to get appointments," Ms Trute said.


"Two thirds of doctors told us they spent almost half their time treating obesity-related conditions and illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.


"In fact, seven out of ten GPs said Queensland's obesity epidemic impacted their work and their capacity to treat patients.


"GPs branded this 'alarming', with many saying the number of people presenting with issues relating to obesity had swelled by more than 25 per cent in less than a decade."


Diabetes Queensland conducted in-depth interviews with GPs in Brisbane, Cairns and Toowoomba to gauge the impact the obesity epidemic is having on GP clinics across Queensland.


Dr John Kastrissios, GP and Chairman of the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare  Local, encouraged policy makers to heed the warnings, saying doctors were on the frontline in the war against obesity.


"The research found doctors felt 'frustrated' because many patients are not helping themselves and continued to overindulge in junk food and not exercise regularly," Dr Kastrissios said.


"Up to half of the doctors surveyed found it difficult to talk to patients about their weight.


"There are a number of reasons for this, including doctors not wanting to offend patients and, more worryingly, patients not seeing their weight as a health problem.


"Many people still don't see excess weight as a problem, despite the fact that we know people in the overweight and obese categories are at a much higher risk of developing potentially fatal and debilitating chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease."


The research found overwhelming support among GPs for a range of social policies that could help reduce the number of people who are overweight and obese.


These include:


  • banning junk food advertising to children
  • implementing workplace physical activity and healthy eating standards
  • banning sugary drinks in locations frequented by children
  • offering free or government-sponsored community-based healthy living programs
    encompassing exercise and diet
  • taxing junk food including energy dense foods and sugary drinks.


Other ideas discussed included:


  • subsidising allied health support from dietitians, nutritionists, exercise physiologists
    and counsellors
  • measuring children's weight at schools
  • implementing town planning laws prohibiting fast food outlets opening near schools
  • creating compulsory nutrition classes in schools
  • banning sitting for longer than two hours at a time in schools and workplaces.


Ms Trute said it was time for all levels of government and the community to get serious about tackling the obesity epidemic.


"Enough is enough - we need new solutions and brave actions - and that means all levels of government need to consider ways we can combat the obesity epidemic. It is also critical that people take control of their own health," Ms Trute said.


"Some of the policy responses raised by GPs may not be popular but they could prove the difference in turning the obesity epidemic around.


"Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable to walk into a smoke-free pub or nightclub, now we wouldn't expect anything else. We need to tackle obesity with the same commitment and vigour to avoid a public health catastrophe."


Diabetes Queensland, The Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia Queensland are enouraging Queenslanders to eat healthier, smaller portions during the festive season. The Queensland partnership is also supported by the Australian Government's new obesity prevention initiative, Shape Up Australia.


Media contact: Liam Ferney 0448 130 925


Note: While type 2 diabetes is largely preventable, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas cells that produce insulin. Insulin regulates the conversion of sugars in food into energy.

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