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Overweight and obesity in the western region: Current research, prevention and intervention

Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the western region

In 2011–12, the percentage of adults classified as overweight or obese across the western region ranged from 65 to 68 per cent.1 Population prevalence estimate data suggest that estimated rates of overweight and obesity in the western region are higher than the national average.2 Overweight and obesity data for children and adolescents across the western region are limited at this stage, and more research is needed to provide an accurate assessment of the extent and impact of this health issue in our communities.

What does current research tell us about overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity is a multifaceted health issue influenced by a wide range of factors. The Obesity System Map,3 developed by the Foresight Programme of the UK Government Office for Science, provides a visual representation of the determinants of obesity and how they interact. The map effectively highlights the complex nature of a health issue such as overweight and obesity and the need for a broad approach. The Public Health Association’s (PHAA) Promoting Healthy Weight Policy recommends ‘that governments and other agencies contribute and co-ordinate efforts to achieve a national, integrated, multisectoral and multidimensional approach to tackling overweight and obesity.’

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:

  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and
  • an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanisation.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.

How is Western Alliance working towards addressing obesity in the western region?

Western Alliance provides support for innovative research projects by early career and experienced researchers, to support collaborative, applied and translational research that will improve health outcomes for people in the western region. The 2015 Western Alliance Grants-in-Aid program awarded funding to support a childhood obesity prevention project, SEA Change: Preventing Childhood Obesity within the Great South Coast, beginning with Portland. Led by Professor Steven Allender, colleagues and collaborators in western Victoria, this project takes a systems approach to reducing obesity. Communities of the Great South Coast of Victoria are partnering with obesity experts at Deakin University to deliver sustained change in the weight status of children. They are seeking to change the ways in which families, communities and organisations do things, so that healthy weight is the norm rather than the exception.

For more information on overweight and obesity, including definitions, risk factors and western region data and initiatives, view our latest infographic.


  1. National Health Performance Authority (2013) Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2011–12 (In Focus). [accessed 30/03/15]
  2. Public Health Information Development Unit (2014) Social Health Atlas of Australia: Medicare Local (online), The University of Adelaide. [accessed 25/03/2015]
  3. Vandenbroeck IP, Goossens J, Clemens M (2007) Foresight. Tackling obesities: Future choices—building the Obesity System Map. London: Government Office for Science. [accessed 30/03/2015]
  4. Public Health Association of Australia (2013) Policy at a glance –Promoting Healthy Weight Policy (online), Public Health Association of Australia. [accessed 30/03/2015]
  5. World Health Organization (2015) Obesity and Overweight, World Health Organization. [accessed 30/03/2015]