Audit of Australian childhood obesity research funding 2005-9

ACAORN conducted an auditing process to investigate the funds allocated by major national medical research funding bodies (INHMRC, ARC, DART, NHF) to research projects related to obesity in children.

In November 2010, our findings were published in a letter to the editor in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, and we use this opportunity to make a call for greater support in this research area. To access the letter, click here.

Australian Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Obesity

Background to the inquiry

According to a 2007 OECD report, Australia has the fifth highest adult obesity rate (21.7 per cent), behind the United States (32.2 per cent), Mexico (30.2 per cent), the United Kingdom (23 per cent) and Greece (21.9 per cent). The Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity states that around 25 per cent of Australian children are currently overweight or obese, a huge jump from five per cent in the 1960s. Access Economics calculates that the yearly financial cost of obesity in Australia is in the region of $3.7 billion.

The House of Representative's Health Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into obesity in Australia to investigate the increasing prevalence of obesity in the Australian population and report on future implications for Australia's health system. The Committee also intends to survey a range of preventative strategies implemented by governments, industry, individuals and the broader community) for lowering Australia's obesity rate amongst children, youth and adults.

Our involvement

Public Hearing, Sydney, 11th September 2008, NSW Parliament House

Professor Louise Baur and Ms Lesley King attended the public hearing at NSW Parliament House.

Brief extract of Professor Baur and Lesley King addressing the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing:

"Prof. Baur:... [W]e have had an under-investment in Australia over a number of years in research into all these different levels of care and intervention, particularly with solution-focused approaches. Our submission provides more information, but we want to highlight the need for further investment in solution-focused approaches to intervention. I will now hand over to my colleague Ms King to discuss issues further.

Ms King: ... [W]e believe that prevention, quite clearly, is of the highest priority with the problem of obesity and in relation to this inquiry.

A really important point goes to what prevention involves. Fundamentally, prevention involves addressing factors that contribute to a problem, whatever that problem is. Typically, prevention works by understanding the problem as much as possible, understanding the causes and then looking at all the things you can do to change those causes. That is probably understood fairly well. What I want to talk about in particular is that, with obesity, on the one hand, it looks as though its causes are simple - consuming too much energy or food and not expending enough energy in activity. By itself, that looks incredibly simple but, paradoxically, in turn, it becomes incredibly complicated, as I am sure you are aware by now. The causes of the causes are really what are important here. What are the things that influence the amount of food consumed and the activity levels that occur. That is where it gets complicated. "

Professor Louise Baur's and Lesley King's complete representation can be read from pages 75 to 82 of the transcript (document pages HA69-76).

ACAORN submission made to House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing

ACAORN's submission specifically seeks to address support for research into causes, treatment and prevention of obesity.

Submission extract:

Executive summary
The severity of the obesity epidemic highlights the need for effective solutions, at both a treatment and prevention level. However, there are many knowledge gaps about what works and what doesn't in preventing and managing obesity. This has contributed to the slowness in responding to the obesity epidemic.

This submission focuses upon the need to support and grow the Australian research capacity to develop, implement and evaluate solutions for the obesity epidemic, especially as it affects children and young people.

In tackling the obesity epidemic, research approaches into the specific causes,
consequences, treatment and prevention of obesity should be supported. Areas of research identified by the Australasian Child & Adolescent Obesity Research
Network (ACAORN) as under-invested include addressing the complex up-stream drivers of the obesity epidemic, the implementation of solution based interventions aimed at treating or preventing obesity, and the translation of study findings into established and sustainable practice and policy.


Read the submission in entirety.