Health outcomes for China and Australia
13 September 2010
China and Australia have very different health systems but share some common challenges with the rise of chronic disease as the largest preventable cause of death. With causes including diet and lifestyle changes related to urbanisation, an expert meeting in Shanghai found that one possible solution might involve tackling climate change.
Better understanding of causes and solutions will be explored in a suite of new joint research collaborations agreed between leading Australian and Chinese researchers and policy makers at a high level Commonwealth Roundtable in the Australian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo last week, on 9 September.
The roundtable included experts from the University of Sydney, Latrobe and the Australian National University, teamed with counterparts from China's leading universities Peking University, Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong, and organisations and government representatives from both countries.
Participants surveyed the latest in childhood obesity and diabetes research and, together with policy experts, mapped how to translate research findings into real health outcomes for Australian, Chinese and global populations.
"Non-communicable diseases such as these that are the growing epidemic in both our countries" said Professor John Horvath AO, a senior official from the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. "We have shared problems and, despite different structures, there are some common solutions for prevention and better management of people's health."
The Hon Dr Geoff Gallop AC, former Premier of Western Australia and member of the National Hospitals and Health Reform Commission and counterparts from the China Health Economics Institute and other practitioners discussed engaging governments, city planners, the food industry and communities in finding solutions rather than blaming the victims of childhood obesity and diabetes.
Some of the social and economic factors discussed were increased intake of processed foods, larger portion sizes, busier lifestyles with less time for considered food preparation and choice, and decreased physical activity.
To galvanise action to solve the problems, Professor Louise Baur AM of the University of Sydney proposed linking childhood obesity and diabetes with policies to reduce and mitigate climate change. "If we link these two issues, the need to reduce carbon emissions and deal with these serious health issues, then we can get more people out of their cars and school students walking to school, we can encourage the consumption of locally grown unprocessed foods and we will be making a contribution to both climate change and diabetes and childhood obesity."
The meeting was part of a series of high level Commonwealth Roundtables, bringing together experts from universities, governments and industry to discuss key challenges facing Australia and China. The roundtables are being coordinated by the University of Sydney on behalf of the Australian Government, as part of our gold sponsorship of the Australian Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010.
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