Toowoomba calls in the heavy hitters to tackle obesity problem

Toowoomba health officials are turning to a leading American university to try and lower the city’s high obesity rate.

Jul 07, 2020, updated Jul 07, 2020

A 2018 Queensland Health report found 66 per cent of adults in the Darling Downs region were either overweight or obese compared to the state average of 59 per cent.

A new group, which includes councillors and hospital staff, was set up earlier this year to tackle the problem.

Toowoomba Hospital executive director Shirley-Anne Gardiner said the group was considering adopting an app used by Stanford University in California.

The app could be trialled on year five students and their parents and people aged between 18 and 24, she said.

“They get an app and then they identify things that are preventing them from doing physical activity or being well.”

Gardiner said issues such as a lack of footpaths could be reported through the app and referred to the local council.

“And because it has been identified by people that are actually in the community, it’s got more of a chance of leading to better health outcomes,” she said.

The group planned to have the trial running before year’s end.

“We’re hoping to get our funding, we’ve got a couple of partners that we’re hoping to get involved so that we can start this in the next couple of months,” Gardiner said.

“Then we’d go and recruit the children and adults … get Stanford on board with it, because they’re going to help with the evaluation along with [the University of Southern Queensland].”

Gardiner said the group was also looking at other ideas to address obesity on the Darling Downs.

Cancer risks

Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Gemma Lock said any program that encouraged people to exercise was welcome.

“Anything that comes within the community can encourage physical activity and certainly doing that as a community group can help keep that embedded in lifestyle as well,” she said.

The council said being overweight or obese was a major risk factor in developing cancer.

“Being above a healthy weight increases your chance of almost 13 types of cancer, including cancer of the oesophagus, breast, liver, kidney and bowel,” Lock said.

“We’ll look at things like healthy eating and we also want to tie into projects that are already underway that we just might not know about.”

– ABC / Belinda Sanders

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