Population of Orange and Dubbo growing larger – literally.

Population of Orange and Dubbo growing larger – literally.

Residents of the Central West have plenty to be proud of.

We take pride in the succulent grapes that bring incredible wines to the country.

We take pride in a mighty agricultural industry, contributing to the backbone of Australia’s food economy.

But most of all, we take pride in our local communities that look out for one another and pull together when times are tough.

So why is it that our weight is not treated with the same respect?

The central west towns of Dubbo and Orange were recently given the honour of being among the state’s fattest towns, after a new Roy Morgan survey revealed almost four in five people are overweight or obese.

This means over 70 per cent of the population in those towns are classified as unhealthy in terms of their weight.

That’s a whopping statistic.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from 2011/12 revealed, “men living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas of Australia were more likely to be overweight or obese (74.4%) compared with men living in major cities (67.7%). This pattern was also consistent for women, with women living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas more likely to be overweight or obese (63.2%) than women living in major cities (52.5%)”.

While this does not mean obesity is an issue isolated to regional areas, there is a significantly greater problem in rural towns.

Some might say – ok, so we have a weight problem. But real beauty is on the inside – right?

A recent report released by the Western NSW Local Health District (NSW LHD) has highlighted obesity and diabetes as key health priorities for the central west, revealing the increasing obesity rate is the biggest single driver of the increase in Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can lead to kidney damage, loss of vision, peripheral nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

So not only does the central west have a hefty weight problem, it has to pay the cost of a serious metabolic disease.

Speaking of cost, the nation spent $8.3 billion on obesity in 2008.

But there is an even bigger cost – obesity is expected to cut the lifespan of the next generation by two years.

So while fast food might be cheap, the ultimate expense is enormous.

Dubbo is proudly home to two KFCs, two McDonalds’, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Subway, Eagle Boys, Oporto, Hungry Jacks, Red Rooster – along with an assortment of  Indian, Italian, seafood and Thai restaurants.

Orange Council is in the process of making plans to build a second McDonald’s in North Orange, a contentious issue within the community.

So here appears to lie the crux of the issue:

Statistics that have “left experts in despair” have highlighted a major obesity problem in the Central West. This has led to a further health issue, driving up the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile fast food restaurants continue to pop up in these towns like pimples on an adolescent. The cost of this problem is coming out of the pockets of all Australians, while the ultimate gift of life is being compromised with a major disease on the rise.

Solution?

The Western NSW Health Needs Assessment 2013 report identified obesity and diabetes as key health priorities, along with nutrition and physical activity intervention.

Western NSW LHD Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said there are a range of very good nutrition and physical activity programs happening at a regional and local level, from local walking and tai chi groups, to initiatives like the Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service which helps individuals with their exercise and diet.”

One might ask if this is enough.

Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute’s Professor Paul Zimmet, who worked on the government’s Preventative Health Taskforce said the solution was ‘to make cheap, healthy food more available, make the fight against obesity part of urban and workplace planning, embed healthy eating and exercise in daily life and make it part of school education.”

It appears tai chi classes and nutrition pamphlets won’t be enough to shed the kilos needed to bring the region down to a healthy weight.

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