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What will it take to curb the rise in obesity?

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Shifting a whole population towards a healthy weight requires action targeting the root causes of obesity

The headline finding from our 2003 paper was a 2.5-times increase in the prevalence of obesity since 1980, with 20.8% of Australian adults found to be obese. Reporting the national obesity prevalence for the first time since 1995, this paper was one of the key outcomes from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study (AusDiab).1 AusDiab was the first Australian national diabetes study; it showed an adult prevalence of diabetes of 7.4% and that of prediabetes (elevated blood glucose levels but below the cut-point for diabetes) at 16.4%.2 These figures meant that prevention of the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes was placed very much on the national agenda. AusDiab went on to become a longitudinal study, with the follow-ups of the cohort at 5 and 12 years providing invaluable data for studying obesity, diabetes, prediabetes, hypertension and kidney disease in individuals as they age. The more than 200 papers now published using data from this study have played an important role in influencing national public health policy and action.

With the prevalence of obesity continuing to climb since the baseline AusDiab survey (28.3% in the 2011–12 National Health Survey3), it is becoming clear that the lifestyle change…