During this pandemic, our leaders bombarded us with slogans about the importance of social distancing, vaccinations, staying home, and hand washing.
But when it comes to one of the most important public health messages, there is deafening silence. There has never been a more important time to talk about fat. We’ve had missed opportunities for public health professionals and doctors for 18 months to address the top modifiable risk factor for death from Covid-19. to be overweight. Death rates are up to ten times higher in countries where more than half the population has a body mass index (BMI) over 25.
Two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese, and this trend is showing signs of plateauing. The Obesity Evidence Hub recently reported that more than 70 percent of Australians in regional and remote areas are overweight or obese. Almost half of all Australian men aged 65-74 are obese. Excess obesity brings a number of other health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea. It is crucial that as an older and obese Covid-19 patient you are much more likely to need hospitalization and mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit. Many of the elderly victims of the first vital outbreak in Italy were overweight, which partly explains the differences in mortality compared to their peers in Wuhan province.
As early as the 1970s and 1980s, the federal government was promoting “Leben. Be In it ‘advertising campaign. Back then, it was believed that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, and it continues to do so today. But it’s interesting how important health promotion is – until it collides with a political narrative. Our government health officials are keen to spread the word that everyone, including young and fit people, is at the same risk of dying from Covid-19. This is not the case. We are being misled by our medical experts and the media. When you hear reports of “perfectly fit” young people with Covid-19 developing the disease, look out for the attached photo. The press will often not report on previous illnesses, but an uncut picture is worth a thousand words.
Prime ministers abuse us for failing to adhere to their increasingly absurd and oppressive “rules”. Spikes in cases are invariably blamed on citizens who do the “wrong” thing. But lengthy bans and curfews have created a perfect storm to expand the waistline by comfortably eating, watching Netflix, and more Pinot. This is how many of us cope with the stress, socio-economic hardship, loneliness and boredom of lockdowns. Working from home has opened the door to snacks, irregular meal times, and daily drinking. It is no wonder that we pile up these 19 kilos of Covid. We were so frightened by the scare tactics that many people prefer to stay at home and have takeaway delivered to them rather than go to the supermarket.
Psychiatrists have observed that the lockdowns trigger a number of other eating disorders as well. The tsunami of anorexia and bulimia in children and adolescents is almost certainly a direct result of isolation, depression and feelings of “out of control”. Worryingly, we know that there is a link between eating disorders and suicide; especially with young people.
For the elderly, browsing the shops used to be one of the best ways to keep track of steps. During the lockdown, their options to get out of the house were severely limited, especially in bad or hot weather. The idea of wearing a mask outside discourages some seniors from leaving the house. Rather than closing gyms and playgrounds and limiting exercise time, our chief health officers and other health professionals should have emphasized that Covid-19 is usually infected at home and that it is important to get some vitamin D and move your legs outside around Mitigate the effects of infection.
There are virtually no confirmed cases of outdoor transmission of this virus. With a travel distance of five kilometers, people in less affluent suburbs – who are already disadvantaged by curfews – are restricted in their freedom of movement. Not everyone has the privilege of having Manly Beach on their doorstep.
Rather than chasing individual kayakers across the harbor, our police should be more moderate in enforcing public health orders. Take a stroll into Bondi on a Saturday and watch the incongruous sight of pale, overweight cops waddling around and ordering fit, lean surfers to “keep going” or being arrested for spending “too long” on the beach.
It is not too late for our Prime Minister to use his own self-published “Battle of the Bulge” to raise awareness on the issue. No doubt, he would admit that his sedentary lifestyle, busy schedule, and love of amber nectar are stubborn barriers to his weight loss. Who could forget the sad sight of Mr Morrison gasping for breath on the Clontarf Foundation’s 2019 charity hike? For motivation, all he has to do is listen to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who declared himself “way overweight” after contact with Covid-19 and then lost 14 pounds after being discharged from hospital by walking his dog. The answer is not to be ashamed of fat, but to defy senseless rules that make the difficult task of losing weight even more difficult and thereby enable better lifestyle choices.
Politicians and health tsars should be more honest when reporting Covid-19 numbers. This pandemic has revealed a massive deficit in both the quantity and quality of communication by governments. Rather than just recording the ages of those who have died or those who require ventilators, why not publish data on patients’ BMI and other underlying health issues?
I fear that while this information is in the public interest, it may not be in the government’s interest. At the time of this writing, almost half of the country is under virtual house arrest. In the interests of our metabolic health, our executives must end these bans as soon as possible. Live? Let’s be there!
Dr. Carlos d’Abrera is a doctor from Sydney. These opinions are his own.