Two thirds of region's adults overweight or obese

Researchers say regions with the lowest rates of obesity are usually green and leafy, with more space dedicated to parks, gardens and recreational facilities.
Researchers say regions with the lowest rates of obesity are usually green and leafy, with more space dedicated to parks, gardens and recreational facilities.

More than two thirds of adults in the Barossa, Light and Gawler regions are obese or overweight a recent study has concluded.

The study, conducted by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, shows high obesity rates in three local council area, along with the potential reasoning behind the statistics.

The figures are not pretty, with 72.8 per cent of residents in Light Council considered obese or overweight, and of those people, around half of them are obese.

Gawler and Barossa were only just behind with 71.4 per cent and 67.6 per cent overweight or obese, respectively; and like Light, around half of these people are obese.

Youths were also in the study, which found the Town of Gawler to have the highest rate of obesity in youths of the three local councils, at 6.7 per cent. When overweight youths are included, this figure jumps to 22.3 per cent.

Light and Barossa followed at 6.4 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

The study found that the rate of obesity varies hugely depending on where people live and their wealth.

Regional council areas have the highest rates of obesity in the state, while less than 20% of the community are obese in the wealthy metropolitan suburbs of Burnside, Adelaide and Unley.

The Mitchell Institute at Victoria University's Professor Rosemary Calder said action was needed to focus 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. 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 said.

Professor Calder said it was no surprise that Adelaide's wealthy suburbs have the lowest rates of obesity.

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

Professor Calder said low socio-economic communities are often new suburbs and regional areas that are at substantial distances from metropolitan centres and other communities.

"These places seldom have the physical infrastructure that supports healthy lifestyles."

Professor Calder said policy change was needed at every level government.

"The establishment of a national preventive health taskforce by the Federal Minister for Health is an essential first step in the right direction. It is vitally important that governments at all levels focus on collectively addressing the impact of where we live on our health."

"Local governments are critical to local planning and to creation of healthy and active spaces for their residents, but their ability is often dependent on state government policies and hampered by lack of funding and regulatory power," she said.

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