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New plan for  healthier WA
The final version of a blueprint for health promotion until 2016 outlines ways to cut rates of chronic disease and injury that cost WA a staggering $4.3 billion in hospital costs alone between 2005 and 2011. Supplied picture

Limiting how many shops sell cigarettes, alcohol and even fast food are among Health Department options to reduce the number of sick West Australians.

The final version of a blueprint for health promotion until 2016 outlines ways to cut rates of chronic disease and injury that cost WA a staggering $4.3 billion in hospital costs alone between 2005 and 2011.

Possible "levers" include limiting the density of tobacco and alcohol outlets and looking at how eating habits are affected by the number of fast-food outlets in an area.

The five-year plan, a follow-up from a draft released for public comment last year, shows obesity has overtaken tobacco as the biggest contributor to sickness and death in WA.

One-fifth of children aged five to 15 and two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

State Health co-ordinator Tarun Weeramanthri said though the problems were well known, research and evidence suggested new tactics were needed.

"Whatever we do, it's going to be difficult and we have to work in partnership, and one thing alone is not going to make a difference," Dr Weeramanthri said. "We're also not pretending we do everything at a State level but the main object is to give people good information so they made healthy choices."

He said some of the approach needed to be hard-hitting and controversial to get people talking about what was acceptable in the community, as the LiveLighter anti-obesity campaign had done.

Limiting the number of outlets selling unhealthy products or those that could cause harm were a possible intervention but could not be done by the health sector alone, Dr Weeramanthri said.

"It has to be acceptable to people but we have to push a few boundaries because that's what we're here to do, but in the end governments have to endorse it," he said.

Curtin University professor of health policy Mike Daube said the report showed the magnitude of preventable health problems and how little was being done about them.

"Obesity, tobacco, alcohol and injuries are massive preventable causes of death and disease, and while the strategies are good and broadly consistent with best evidence about what can work, many of the most important decisions are taken outside of the health system," Professor Daube said.