Australia needs to tackle obesity: OECD

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Got a client who does not think they need life insurance? Australia may enjoy one of the highest levels of health across the developed world but there needs to be far more done to address its fast-expanding obesity problem, according to the latest Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development report.

The report, Health at a Glance 2013, states Australians’ life expectancy at birth now stands at 82 years, almost two years above the average life expectancy of the 34 OECD countries.

Australia’s high quality health care system consistently rates among the top five countries, in terms of survival after being diagnosed with cancer or after suffering a heart attack.

These good outcomes are achieved at a reasonable price, with Australians spending 8.9% of their GDP on health compared to an OECD average of 9.3%, the organisation says.

But Australian state and federal governments face considerable challenges if they want to improve their population’s health, with high levels of obesity.

Australia has among the highest rates of adult obesity in the world at 28.3%, behind the United States (36.5%), Mexico (32.4%) and New Zealand (28.4%) but ahead of the United Kingdom (24.8%) and Ireland (23%).

Worryingly, the report also notes Australia’s comparatively high numbers of adverse events during hospitalisation.

For example, the number of times where a foreign body is accidentally left in after a surgical procedure is 8.6 per 100 000 hospital discharges in Australia, compared to the OECD average of five.

These figures may signal better reporting of such events and support the need for organisations such as the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to put patient safety at the centre of healthcare management, funding and policy, OECD suggests.
The report is published by the Paris-based OECD and brings together international data on health topics including outcomes, healthcare access, resources and quality as well as expenditure.