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Our Obesity Epidemic


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In the last 20 years, the proportion of Australians who are obese has increased by almost 50%. That’s just one of many startling statistics revealing the extent of Australia’s obesity epidemic; an epidemic that’s putting an ever-increasing strain on the public purse.

It doesn’t help that there’s so much conflicting information and advice around exercise and nutrition. A recent cardiologist-led study claims exercise does not promote weight loss. Saturated fat used to be the enemy; now we’re demonising sugar and carbohydrates. Some health professionals now claim it’s possible to be overweight – even obese – and healthy. Food labelling, dieting fads, powerful lobby groups – it’s a minefield.

Australians living in regional locations and those in the most highly disadvantaged socioeconomic groups are more likely to be overweight or obese. But there are other factors that increase the likelihood of obesity, too, such as  being Australian born and having English as a first language.

What is driving this epidemic and why is it affecting particular demographic groups more acutely? What are the health impacts of obesity – and how can it affect a person’s quality (and length) of life, employment, community participation? How does the fat acceptance movement relate to debates about public health, and how are myths about obesity perpetuated?

During this hour of audience Q&A, host Madeleine Morris is joined by Heart Foundation CEO Mary Barry, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation CEO Ange Barry, fat studies academic Jenny Lee and researcher Michael Gard for a discussion of Australia’s unfolding obesity epidemic.


Madeleine Morris

Madeleine Morris is a Melbourne-based reporter for ABC television’s 7.30. She was formerly a presenter for the BBC in London and reported from dozens of countries before returning to her native Australia. She is the author of Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding: Why Your Formula-Fed Baby Can Grow ... Read more

Mary Barry

Mary Barry was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the National Heart Foundation in January 2014. Prior to this, Barry was the inaugural CEO of VAHEC, a peak body representing the interests of aged care providers and bush nursing centres and hospitals across the State, before taking on... Read more

Ange Barry

Ange Barry is the Chief Executive Officer of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. Ange joined Stephanie Alexander in August 2006 to manage the growth of the organisation and to pursue the Foundation goal of growing the Kitchen Garden Program. She has led the development of an incredibl... Read more

Michael Gard

Michael Gard is associate professor of sport, health and physical education in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Queensland. He teaches, researches and writes about how the human body is and has been used, experienced, educated and governed. He is the author o... Read more

Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee is a Lecturer in Creative Writing, Literary Studies and Gender Studies at Victoria University in Melbourne. She researches in the interdisciplinary fields of Fat Studies and Creative Writing (often producing work that crosses into both disciplines). Jenny supports Melbourne ... Read more


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