Clarence Valley tipping the scales in latest health data
HEALTH data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed a worrying statistic for the Clarence Valley, with more than a third of the population of the local government area considered obese, and nearly three-quarters either overweight or obese.
According to the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, using data sourced from the ABS Australian Health Survey 2017-18, 38.7 per cent of adults in the Clarence Valley are considered obese, while 72.2 per cent of adults are overweight or obese.
In terms of total numbers, that means 29,232 people across the Clarence Valley are considered either overweight or obese.
Across the Northern Rivers region, the Clarence Valley is ranked third for total number of adults considered obese, behind Kyogle (40.1 per cent) and Richmond Valley (39.6 per cent).
This is three times the rate of Ku-ring-gai and Willoughby on Sydney's upper and lower north shore respectively, which come in at less than 14.5 per cent and have the lowest rates of obesity in the state.
The West Australian suburbs of Nedlands (12.8 per cent), Claremont (14 per cent), Mosman Park (14.3 per cent) and Cambridge (14.4 per cent) are also home to some of the least obese communities nationwide.
The Clarence Valley's youth also have a weight problem, with 8.3 per cent of youth obese and 23.1 per cent overweight or obese.
Across the country, the proportion of adults with obesity has risen 27 per cent in the past 10 years to almost a third of the population. In regional Australia, 67 per cent of the population are overweight or obese.
The health policy institute's Professor Rosemary Calder said people have little chance of shrinking their waistlines without a change to the world around them.
"These (least obese) suburbs are usually green and leafy, with more space dedicated to parks, gardens and recreational facilities," she said.
"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."
Prof Calder said the places with the highest rates of obesity also have much higher rates of smoking, inactivity and chronic illness, and are largely seen as low socio-economic communities.
According to the Heart Foundation's Australian Heart Maps, 21 per cent of the Valley's population are currently smoking, compared to the national average of 16 per cent. The Clarence Valley also has a rate of physical inactivity of 72 per cent, significantly higher than the national average of 66 per cent.
Prof Calder said the statistics highlighted the impact of poverty versus wealth on a person's health.
"People in our wealthier suburbs tend to have better access to information about healthy diet and the financial means to access healthy food options and enjoyable physical activity," the professor said.