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  • Assessment 1. Part B. Individual Written paperWord length: 1,000 wordsWeighting: 30%The Australian Institute of Health and Welfares [AIHW] report on "�Australia's Health (2010)' has acknowledged that Australia has one of the highest rates of o

Assessment 1. Part B. Individual Written paperWord length: 1,000 wordsWeighting: 30%The Australian Institute of Health and Welfares [AIHW] report on «�Australia’s Health (2010)’ has acknowledged that Australia has one of the highest rates of o Essay Example

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Obesity in Australia

  1. Why obesity is a National Health Priority area

Obesity is a condition whereby excess body weight accumulates, leading to significant burdens of ill health as well as social and economic costs (AIHW, 2011). Often, this condition occurs when a person’s level of energy intake surpasses energy expenditure. The higher the difference between energy intake and expenditure over a considerable period of time, the higher the rates of weight gain. According to Medibank Health Solutions (2010), obesity increases the risk of potentially lethal and chronic illnesses. In particular, this condition increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gall bladder disease, osteoporosis, ischemic stroke, sleep apnoea and certain cancers (AIHW, 2011). These medical problems that stem from obesity are expensive to treat including obesity itself. Partly, this explains why obesity needs to be categorised as a health priority area.

Recently, there has been significant increase in prevalence of obesity in many nations. In Australia for example, statistics obtained by the Department of Health and Ageing in 2007/2008 showed that the prevalence of obesity stood at 24.8 percent of the all people aged 18 years and above (Australian Bureau of statistics, 2009). This was an increase from 8.4 percent on the 2004/2005 data. In addition, Access Economics estimated that the overall financial costs related to treatment of the problems caused by obesity rose from $3.767 billion in 2005 to $8.283 billion in 2008 (AIHW, 2011). Following these trends, the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference decided to make obesity a National Health Priority Area in 2007.

  1. How the ‘Determinants of Health’ need to be considered in relation to obesity as a health issue.

Obesity is one of the non-contagious health outcomes largely attributed to lifestyle behaviours. According to Russell-Mayhew (2006), the amount of food that people take and how they expend their energy is determined by individuals’ social-economic, social-political, socio-environmental and socio-cultural environments. This is illustrated by statistics obtained in Australia in 2008 which indicated that obesity was more prevalent among racial/ethnic minorities and lower income groups and also those with least amount of education (Friel, 2009). This implies that effective prevention of obesity can only be achieved through actions that tackle the underlying social drivers. According to Russell-Mayhew (2006), effective consideration of these social drivers requires formulation of policy frameworks that give the most efficient approach to obesity as a health issue, at individual and community levels. The best approach to achieve this end is to provide people with social capital.

According to Russell-Mayhew (2006), freedom to live healthy is synonymous with psychological, material and political empowerment of individuals, communities and nations. The aforementioned social determinants of health lie behind empowerment and its social distribution within a population. The interactions among these social determinants shape the way in which people live, play, work and age all of which affect development and maintenance of obesity. This does not mean that medical and technical solutions to this condition such as medical care and disease control are not important; it is just that they do not exist for many problems that exist which are related to obesity. Thus, as Russell-Mayhew (2006) stresses, effective consideration of the determinants of health involves “diffusion of knowledge about health promotion, maintenance of healthy behavioural norms through informal social control and access to local services and amenities.”

  1. The primary, secondary and tertiary health promotion in relation to obesity as a health issue

Primary health promotion comprises activities designed to reduce cases of illnesses in a population with the intention of reducing as much as possible the risk of new cases appearing (Tulchinsky & Varavikovas, 2009). In its application to obesity, this process includes health promotion, such as educating people about risk factors for obesity and specific protections such as avoidance of particular foodstuffs. In short, the main objective of this process is to decrease the vulnerability of a population to obesity. Secondary health promotion on the other hand comprises activities designed to detect and make an early diagnosis of an illness or dysfunction and give the most effective treatment to stop its progress or prevent complications arising from an already existing illness or dysfunction. Secondary health promotion in relation to obesity involves seeking out those who are already obese and offering them help through, for example, engaging them in activities that help to reduce weight such as swimming and jogging, before they develop body complications (Boyce et al, 2010).

Tertiary health comprises of activities aimed at reducing incidences of chronic or recurrences of a particular illness in a population and thus reduces the consequences of that illness. According to Boyce et al (2010), this process involves activities such as therapy and rehabilitation techniques — all of which are designed to assist individuals to return to family, educational, professional, social and cultural life. In reference to obesity, tertiary promotion involves identifying obese persons who have already developed complications and working with them to reduce the long-term effects of their excessive weight.

  1. The involvement and roles of community nurses in health promotion that targets obesity within a community setting.

Community health nursing is an initiative that addresses health needs of communities and vulnerable populations (Harris, 2008). Community health nurses are individuals involved in identification of the needs of clients, families or groups, they set goals, plan and provide the required services and evaluate the impact of their care. According to Andresen and Bouldin (2010), the health care services provided by community nurses to persons with obesity largely focus on holistic practices that integrate principles of health promotion, disease management, and rehabilitation. They formulate health promotion approaches for families, groups or clients and encourage self-care to assist them to avoid obesity or complications related to this condition or to get rid of the complications that they already acquired have that are brought about by obesity This involves providing education through counselling programs and offering instructions to individuals at both personal and collectively levels. Also, as a part the process of tackling the issue of obesity, community nurses deal with personal health matters such as excessive alcohol intake, diet, exercise, and encourage people participate in obesity prevention programs. As well, they encourage people to adopt appropriate and healthy eating habits and behaviours as early as they can in life (Glasper & Richardson, 2006). Finally, community nurses collect evaluate and analyse data regarding health requirements of obese persons within a population and use the information to guide them in provision of services to patients. Such data is very helpful while offering tertiary health promotion care to persons who have already developed complications brought about by obesity (Glasper & Richardson, 2006).


Andresen, E. & Bouldin, E. D. (2010). Understanding Population, Public Health Foundations:
Concepts and Practices. New York:John Wiley and Sons

Australian Bureau of statistics, (2009), “National Health Priority Areas.” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/0/5317BAD6B8EEE19ACA25757C001EED30?opendocument.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2011). “Why is obesity a National Health Priority Area?” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from http://www.aihw.gov.au/obesity-health-priority-area/

Boyce, T., Peckham, A., Hann, A., & Trenholm, S. (2010). ‘A pro-active approach. Health
Promotion and Ill-health prevention.” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from http://www.ukpha.org.uk/media/22375/gp%20inquiry,%20health%20promotion%20and%20ill%20health%20prevention.pdf

Friel, S. (2009). “Health equity in Australia: A policy framework based on action on the social determinants of obesity, alcohol and tobacco.” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/preventativehealth/publishing.nsf/Content/0FBE203C1C547A82CA257529000231BF/$File/commpaper-hlth-equity-friel.pdfs

Glasper, E. A. & Richardson, J. (2006). “Public health, primary healthcare and community
children’s nursing.” A textbook of children’s and young people’s nursing. London: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Harris, M. (2008). “The role of primary health care in preventing the onset of chronic disease, with a particular focus on the lifestyle risk factors of obesity, tobacco and alcohol.” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/preventativehealth/publishing.nsf/Content/0FBE203C1C54782CA257529000231BF/$File/commpaper-primary-hlth-care-harris.pdf

Medibank Health Solutions (2010). “Obesity in Australia: financial impacts and cost benefits of
Intervention.” Retrieved from, http://www.medibank.com.au/Client/Documents/Pdfs/Obesity_Report_2010.pdf

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2011). “Overweight and obesity.” Retrieved 11 August, 2011, from, http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/research-funding-statistics-and-data/overweight-and-obesity

Russell-Mayhew, S. (2006). “Eating Disorders and Obesity as Social Justice Issues: Implications for Research and Practice.” Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 1(1): 1-10.

Tulchinsky, T. H. & Varavikovas, V. (2009). “Expanding the concept of public health.” The new public health.