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By Pearl Bullivant on June 16, 2017 in Other

Picture: Eta Burger

“Health system ‘failing’ obese Australians” – this was a recent headline grab that caused Pearl to splutter her breakfast of Elle Macpherson Elixir down her PE Nation running crop top into her aging (but taut) belly button. The ‘health system’? The very one that spends $21 billion a year of taxpayers’ dollars on the overweight and obese?

Shouldn’t I be reading: “McDonalds and Dominos are ‘failing’ obese Australians”; or “Government is ‘failing’ obese Australians by not taxing junk food”? Even “The Biggest Loser ‘failing’ obese Australians” would have more credibility with Pearl.

Of course the story behind the headline failed to deliver the same level of outrage in Pearl, but its sentiments – GPs being more mindful when identifying obesity in patients – still needed exploring. Like teachers being held responsible for every facet of school students’ wellbeing, it bewilders me that doctors are accused of letting the team down. If the consumption of food is not a personal responsibility and we have a health system that doesn’t discriminate between thin and fat, then why should the onus be on a GP?

Obesity is an unfortunate by-product of our consumer focussed economy, similar to environmental damage sustained due to unfettered capitalism. If the eater is not to blame, shouldn’t we be pointing the finger at food manufacturers and fast food companies, and a government too scared to levy a junk food tax on corporations that are already avoiding contributing to Australia’s coffers via elaborate tax avoidance schemes?

The call to spend taxpayers’ dollars on training doctors and nurses to mindfully treat overweight people is yet another band-aid act when the food industry again fails to be held to account. Australians are well aware of the dangers of unhealthy eating. Entire industries are built on the zeal of the anti-sugar, clean eating brigade and still Australians prefer to go large. Education isn’t working and we are instead setting doctors up for ‘shoot the messenger’.

As for ‘failing’, it’s ironic that the very people who are being failed by the health system are the fit and healthy folk who are often prone to misdiagnosis – the fit 60-year-old dismissed by GPs only to discover that their back pain was not caused by cycling but cancer; the menopausal marathon runner prescribed anti-depressants rather than a laparoscopy – all failed by an over-stretched system.

My fit niece, with a vascular condition predisposing her to stroke and dissections, has failed to find a specialist to monitor her as she is “too healthy” and annual screenings are a “Medicare burden”, yet her obese, chain-smoking sister-in-law is given carte blanche to a medical system supporting a diet of McDonalds.

So what next? Let’s follow through on the idea of shifting the onus to school teachers via compulsory NAPLAN weigh-ins (whilst neglecting the crap in school canteens). Or we could just allow obesity to go the way of the environment – the damage will create jobs and growth!

The way things are going, I’m envisaging “Airlines and cinemas ‘failing’ to accommodate obese Australians” will be the next headline grab to outrage skinny Pearl.



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