Obesity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Causes and Impacts

Prevalence Of Obesity In Australia

The health issue that is the subject of this article is obesity. Obesity is a complex disease associated with excessive amounts of body fat (Huse et al. 2018).

The location where this document will be discussed is Australia. An estimated 12.5 million adults are affected by obesity in Australia, presenting a dire picture of the impact of the disease on the Australian population (Machado et al. 2020).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are the population or community groups of interest in this article whose health data indicate this health problem (Thurber et al. 2018). Statistically, more than 74% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are obese (Thurber et al. 2018). As stated above, when there is too much fat in the body, the condition is called obesity. It is not a cosmetic problem, but it is a serious medical problem that increases the risk of other health problems as well as diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes (Sherriff et al. 2019 ). When people consume more calories than are burned through daily activities and exercise, obesity occurs (Whettam et al. 2022).

When a person’s body mass index is 25 or greater than 25, the person is considered obese (Sherriff et al. 2019). Symptoms of this condition are: 1) lower back pain, 2) knee or hip pain, 3) excessive sweating, 4) lack of confidence or low self-esteem, 5) frequent fatigue, 6 ) shortness of breath and 7) sleep apnea or snoring (Whettam et al. 2022). Therefore, it can be said that there are several main reasons why obesity develops, namely poor diet, insufficient physical activity. Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are a vulnerable population to this health problem. In this vulnerable population, persons 18 years of age and older are the main overweight or obese group (Vincze et al. 2022).

Figure 1 showing the prevalence of the health problem among the targeted population group of Australia

(Source – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022)

According to statistics from 2018 to 2019, 3 out of 4 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are obese, which means that nearly 74% of all Aboriginal people are obese (Salmon et al. .2019). ). This percentage indicates that people 18 years of age and older are affected (Salmon et al. 2019).

There are several behavioral factors that cause obesity, such as 1) having a high-energy diet, 2) consuming a lot of sugar – sugary drinks, 3) large portions of food, 4) habits eating, 5) higher sedentary levels and 6) lower levels of physical activity (Mihrshahi, Gow and Baur 2018). Regarding lifestyle factors, several lifestyle factors are responsible for the development of obesity, namely: 1) drinking too much alcohol because alcohol is used to contain a lot of calories and that’s why Why people who drink a lot of alcohol are often overweight or obese. (Mihrshahi, Gow and Baur 2018).

Causes Of Obesity

The population group most at risk for this health condition is the 18-year-old indigenous population (Pringle et al. 2019). Even children in this group have the highest rates of obesity compared with non-Indigenous children (Perry et al. 2022). In addition to behavioral and lifestyle factors, socioeconomic factors that put this group of people at risk for obesity include: 1) prolonged financial stress, 2) food insecurity, 3) urban chemical, 4) substandard housing, overcrowded housing, 5) lack of adequate facilities. access to health care services (Pringle et al. 2019).

Social factors that contribute to the development of obesity among Indigenous peoples in Australia include: discrimination and racism that segregate this population, deprivation of educational rights, lifestyle related benefits like employment, financial stability, etc. these factors contribute to the formation of unhealthy lifestyle habits, which are the cause of obesity in this group of people (Perry et al. 2022).

Economic factors contributing to the development of obesity among Indigenous Australians include: underemployment, lack of commensurate financial income, prolonged financial stress, poverty leading to insecurity food (Sainsbury et al. 2020). This factor is responsible for the development of poor behavioral choices that lead to the development of obesity in this population (Perry et al. 2022).

The environmental factors that contribute to the development of obesity among Indigenous Australians are as follows – coming from remote areas, lack of access to appropriate healthcare support, which has created take a sloppy approach to health and well-being. of these individuals contributes to the development of obesity in these individuals (Sainsbury et al. 2020). Statistical data indicate that social, economic and environmental factors are responsible for poverty, which is a major contributor to poor health for Aboriginal Australians (Deacon – Crouch, Begg) and Skinner 2020). Poor education as well as low literacy rates are associated with poor health status of these people (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). They affect these people’s ability to use health information (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). In addition, lower income reduces access to health services and medicines (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). Childhood undernutrition is associated with poverty, leading to chronic diseases such as obesity later in life (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). In addition, smoking and high-risk behaviors such as drinking are associated with poor economic status (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). Therefore, it can be said that social, economic and environmental factors leading to poverty are the main contributors to the development of obesity in this group of people (Deacon – Crouch, Begg and Skinner 2020). .

Factors affecting the ability of the target group to seek help include: 1) poverty – due to difficult economic conditions, people cannot access health care services as well as medicines. , 2) lack of education and low literacy rate – due to this factor, the target group of people who receive support cannot understand the health information available to them, 3) remote areas – due to ‘they coming from remote areas, travel is difficult to health care centers and therefore people are targeted to ignore their health status as much as possible (Thurber et al. 2018) .

Behavioral Factors

The five people, groups, or organizations that AI can work with to tackle obesity-related health issues together are: 1) Primary care provider, 2) Pharmacist, 3) National organization community-controlled health expert (ONSAC), 4) a general practitioner, and 5) a lifestyle counselor (Sherriff et al. 2019).

The primary care provider will provide preventive care once the medical condition is determined (Salmon et al. 2019). The pharmacist will provide the medications that the doctor will prescribe (Salmon et al. 2019). The rationale for partnering with NACCHO is that it will help the nurse by informing her of government policy towards Indigenous peoples in Australia (Salmon et al. 2019). In addition, a lifestyle counselor will help patients adopt a healthy lifestyle, which is especially important for obesity (Salmon et al. 2019).

Obesity is a common health problem worldwide (Machado et al. 2020). In Australia, this problem is mainly present in Aboriginal people whose lifestyle as well as behavioral factors are responsible for the prevalence of this disease (Machado et al. 2020).


Deacon-Crouch, M., Begg, S. and Skinner, T., 2020. Is sleep duration associated with overweight/obesity in Indigenous Australian adults?. BMC Public Health, 20(1), pp.1-13.

Huse, O., Hettiarachchi, J., Gearon, E., Nichols, M., Allender, S. and Peeters, A., 2018. Obesity in Australia. Obesity research & clinical practice, 12(1), pp.29-39.

Machado, P.P., Steele, E.M., Levy, R.B., da Costa Louzada, M.L., Rangan, A., Woods, J., Gill, T., Scrinis, G. and Monteiro, C.A., 2020. Ultra-processed food consumption and obesity in the Australian adult population. Nutrition & diabetes, 10(1), pp.1-11.

Mihrshahi, S., Gow, M.L. and Baur, L.A., 2018. Contemporary approaches to the prevention and management of paediatric obesity: an Australian focus. Medical Journal of Australia, 209(6), pp.267-274.

Perry, C., Dimitropoulos, Y., Skinner, J., Bourke, C., Miranda, K., Cain, E., Beaufils, D., Christie, V., Rambaldini, B. and Gwynne, K., 2022. Availability of drinking water in rural and remote communities in New South Wales, Australia. Australian Journal of Primary Health.

Pringle, K.G., Lee, Y.Q., Weatherall, L., Keogh, L., Diehm, C., Roberts, C.T., Eades, S., Brown, A., Smith, R., Lumbers, E.R. and Brown, L.J., 2019. Influence of maternal adiposity, preterm birth and birth weight centiles on early childhood obesity in an Indigenous Australian pregnancy-through-to-early-childhood cohort study. Journal of developmental origins of health and disease, 10(1), pp.39-47.

Sainsbury, E., Magnusson, R., Thow, A.M. and Colagiuri, S., 2020. Explaining resistance to regulatory interventions to prevent obesity and improve nutrition: a case-study of a sugar-sweetened beverages tax in Australia. Food Policy, 93, p.101904.

Salmon, M., Skelton, F., Thurber, K.A., Kneebone, L.B., Gosling, J., Lovett, R. and Walter, M., 2019. Intergenerational and early life influences on the well-being of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: overview and selected findings from Footprints in Time, the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. Journal of developmental origins of health and disease, 10(1), pp.17-23.

Sherriff, S.L., Baur, L.A., Lambert, M.G., Dickson, M.L., Eades, S.J. and Muthayya, S., 2019. Aboriginal childhood overweight and obesity: the need for Aboriginal designed and led initiatives.

Thurber, K.A., Joshy, G., Korda, R., Eades, S.J., Wade, V., Bambrick, H., Liu, B. and Banks, E., 2018. Obesity and its association with sociodemographic factors, health behaviours and health status among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults in New South Wales, Australia. J Epidemiol Community Health, 72(6), pp.491-498.

Vincze, L., Boswell, M., Atkins, H., Littlewood, R. and Williams, L., 2022. Addressing childhood obesity in Queensland: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker perspectives and practices. Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

Whettam, L., Bergmeier, H., Chung, A. and Skouteris, H., 2022. The ongoing impact of colonisation on childhood obesity prevention: a First Nations’ perspective. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 46(1), pp.3-6.

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