Change to definition will see more people categorised as fat

ALMOST one-third of the population could be diseased in the coming six months, as Australia's top medical body considers changing how we think about exploding obesity figures.

The push comes from Obesity Australia's No Time To Weight report, which expects the change in definition will allow better funding and treatment for the 28% of the country considered too big to be healthy.

The number in regional Australia is even higher with those in outlying regional or rural areas 50% more likely to be obese than their inner-city counterparts.

In a practical sense, doctors are able to treat diseases with better government funding, management plans and are expected to raise concerns with patients during routine visits.

The suggestion has some support from Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton who said while the AMA had no view on the matter, it would spend six months developing one.

One of the key arguments by Obesity Australia - which fights against obesity and encourages treatment - is that many feel too embarrassed or stigmatised to seek help.

But could having a disease worsen the reputation of the obese?

"I think it's a danger when we're weighing up the pros and cons," Dr Hambleton said.

"There might be a perverse driver that's against the solution."

Dr Hambleton said there was also some risk of obesity being "medicalised", making it an issue for doctors when it should be a consideration for urban planners, educators and the people themselves.

Obesity Australia chief executive Associate Professor Stella Clark said obesity could be treated in the same way type 2 diabetes was often addressed by doctors who suggest "diet and exercise".

"(Obese) people have serious health problems," she said.

"That needs to be addressed if we are not to see them going on to develop further problems that will be an enormous burden on themselves, families and the whole of society."

Obesity Australia is also calling for better education of parents and young children particularly since the very young can develop habits that will put them on a path to obesity even before they begin school.

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