Regional Australia in grips of an obesity epidemic

CENTRAL Queensland and Western New South Wales are among Australia's fattest regions, with a new national report showing country areas to be in the grips of an obesity epidemic.

Central Queensland - including Gladstone, Rockhampton and Biloela - has the third highest obesity rate in the country, with 39% of the population labelled dangerously overweight.

When the overweight are included in these figures, NSW towns of Dubbo and Bathurst rate the worst with 79% or roughly eight-out-of-10 carrying an unhealthy amount of weight.

Those in Mackay and Townsville are included as one group, with 75% being either overweight or obese.

The Sunshine Coast had among the lowest level of obesity in the country, with just 22%.

For Mackay, the problem is well known.

Mayor Deirdre Comerford warned of a looming health crisis in the town when she attended a government conference in Brisbane earlier this month.

The latest research from the National Health Performance Authority chronicles the level of Australia's obesity in different areas up to mid-2012.

According to the report, "the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese increased with geographic remoteness and lower socioeconomic status".

"Yet still half of adults in the wealthiest urban areas were overweight or obese and two in 10 were obese."

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments pledged to increase the number of people with a healthy weight from 37% to 42% by 2018.

These figures show that by mid-2012, the number of Australians with a healthy weight fell to 36%.

Levels of obesity by region, 2011-12

Central Queensland (Gladstone/Rockhampton): 39%
Townsville-Mackay: 38%
Western NSW (Dubbo): 33%
Brisbane: 30%
North Coast NSW: 29%
Gold Coast 26%
Sunshine Coast: 22%
Sydney North Shore: 14%