Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity         
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Australian Sports Commission
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Professor Tom Cochrane, Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, University of Canberra (February 2016) 
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 1 May 2017
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Obesity has been identified by leading health authorities as a major risk factor contributing to the onset of type-two diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity among children and adolescents is linked to an increased risk of long-term health problems and may also diminish the quality of life in the short-term. The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that childhood obesity is a complex issue having many interrelated factors, both within and outside of the health sector; including levels of physical activity, dietary habits, environment, education, cultural and socioeconomic status.

The high rate of childhood obesity in Australia is a major health concern for State and Federal Governments. Comparisons with other advanced economies internationally shows that Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world.

  • Australia’s Health 2016, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Catalogue Number AUS 199 (2016). Every two years the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) compiles a national report card on the health of Australians. A comprehensive range of health metrics are reported, including population statistics on bodyweight (e.g. underweight, normal, overweight and obese) and compliance with physical activity guidelines. In 2014-15 just over one-quarter of Australian children aged 5 to 14 years were classified as overweight (19%) or obese (7%). Slightly less than one-quarter (23%) of children did not meet the recommended national physical activity guidelines. Among young adults, age 18 to 24, the rate of overweight persons increased to 22% and obese to 15%. Also, 52% of young adults did not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.

Key Messages 


Childhood obesity is linked to increased risk of adverse long-term health outcomes.


Australia has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity among developed countries.


The short and long-term impacts of childhood obesity have significant economic implications.


Regular physical activity during childhood and adolescence helps to regulate body weight and establish health promoting lifestyle behaviours that reduce risk factors associated with obesity and chronic diseases.


Because of the complex interaction of factors influencing childhood obesity, multi-component intervention strategies appear to be the most effective in moderating or reducing adiposity (that is, severe or morbid overweight) in children and adolescents.

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