Obesity, physical activity and nutrition

Establishing healthy eating habits and maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet are foundations of health and wellbeing, and the prevention of chronic disease across the lifespan. Good nutrition in childhood is particularly important for a healthy start in life.

Sufficient physical activity is also essential for growth and development as well as maintaining good physical and mental health over the life course.

Overweight and obesity

Obesity is a chronic, relapsing, progressive condition that leads to physiological changes and ill health over time. An excess accumulation of body fat can have multiple metabolic effects, including increasing inflammation in the body, which raises the risk of developing health problems such as cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

In Western Australia (WA), more than 70 per cent of adults live with overweight (have an adult body mass index (BMI) ≥ 25 and < 30) or obesity (have an adult BMI of 30 or more). One in four children are living with overweight or obesity.

The WA Government's ten-year blueprint for health, the Sustainable Health Review (2019), recommends to 'halt the rise in obesity in WA by July 2024 and for WA to have the highest percentage of population with a healthy weight of all states in Australia by July 2029'.

Multiple systems contribute to excess weight gain, including food marketing and advertising, food pricing and availability, transport, urban design, access to healthcare, education, trade, legal, economic, biological, and psychosocial factors. Policies and programs that impact overweight and obesity deserve consideration in all of these systems, to help address the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in the WA community.

There is an urgent need to shift from blaming individuals for being overweight or obese to acknowledging the environmental and societal causes of obesity. People living with overweight and obesity are frequently subjected to weight stigma. Experiences of weight stigma or weight bias can lead to an increased risk of bullying, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, avoidance of physical activity, and delays in seeking health care. Weight bias can translate into discrimination and inequities in health care settings, educational settings, workplaces, and personal relationships. 

For more information on weight stigma, please visit the World Obesity website (external site).

It is acknowledged that for some people, messages about eating and physical activity may be challenging, or raise personal issues. Obesity may be associated with disordered eating and eating disorders.

For information and support related to disordered eating and eating disorders, please refer to the following services:

Obesity and Health at Every Size®

Health at Every Size® is a weight inclusive and weight-neutral approach adopted by healthcare professionals, consumers and activists who reject the use of weight, size, or BMI as proxies for health and weight loss or weight management. In doing this, Health at Every Size® does not align with the current scientific evidence relating to the health risks of being above a healthy weight. The Obesity Collective's Position Statement on Obesity and Health at Every Size® (external site) offers an overview of the Health at Every Size® approach, and the urgent need to reduce weight bias and stigma, while acknowledging that obesity increases risks of disease, disability, and inequity.

More information

Related links



Healthy eating

Australians are often exposed to conflicting nutrition messages and misinformation, particularly with the rise of social media and influencers. The Australian Dietary Guidelines (external site) are based on extensive scientific evidence, take account of Australian eating patterns and recommend the best approach to eating for a longer and healthier life. However, for various reasons, most Australians' eating patterns do not meet these Guidelines.

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The obesity promoting and obesogenic environment

Overweight and obesity are closely linked with the environments in which people are born, live, work, learn, play, and age. Our environment has been called obesity-promoting or 'obesogenic' as it encourages people to consume more energy than their bodies need and to be less physically active. Creating healthy environments supports all members of society to improve their health status and can help reduce inequities in health.

The former Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council has developed and published recommendations for healthy food environments in schools (external site), sport and recreation (external site), and hospital and healthcare settings (external site). The COAG Health Council have also developed the National Interim Guide to Reduce Children's Exposure to Unhealthy Food and Drink Promotion (external site) which has been shown to be effective for identifying food and drinks that should not be promoted to children, to support action to reduce the impact of unhealthy advertising on children.

More information

Related policies

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Obesity prevention programs

As part of a whole of population approach for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases, the Department of Health funds a number of state-wide programs.


LiveLighter® (external site), delivered by Cancer Council WA (external site), is a healthy lifestyle promotion and education program and a public health mass media campaign, that helps Western Australian adults and families to lead a healthy life.

LiveLighter® (external site), offers a range of information, resources and tools for consumers and health professionals, such as healthy meal plans and recipes, tips on how to understand food labels, and free workouts and exercise guides. 

Healthy lifestyle programs for children

Better Health Company is delivering free, healthy lifestyle programs to families in Western Australia. Designed by health professionals, Better Health Company's programs are evidence-based and align with national guidelines on healthy eating, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour.

The programs provide families with weekly support from qualified health professionals, practical resources to support healthy behaviour change at home, and interactive weekly sessions.

Families can choose to attend the group-based programs at a local community venue or join the online program. 

The Active8 program for 2 - 5 years old. For more information, including referrals visit The Active8 program (external site).

The Better Health Program for 6 - 12 years old. For more information, including referrals visit The Better Health Program (external site)

Healthy eating in WA Schools

Whole of school healthy eating program

FreshSNAP (Fresh School Nutrition Advisory Program) (external site) delivered by Nutrition Australia WA, supports all WA schools with whole of school approaches to healthy eating through nutrition education and creating healthy food environments in classrooms, school canteens, and the broader school community.

FreshSNAP provides schools with free phone, email, web and face-to-face support to implement the Department of Education’s Student Health in Public Schools Procedures, Appendix B. Healthy Food and Drink (external site). Schools can access a range of free curriculum materials, lesson plans, recipes, training and other tools, including FoodChecker (external site); an online recipe, menu and assessment tool.

WA School Food and Drink Criteria

The Western Australian Department of Health has developed a WA School Food and Drink Criteria (the criteria) to classify food and drink provided in schools. Using the traffic light system, food and drink are classified as GREEN (healthiest), AMBER, or RED (least healthy), in line with international evidence, national dietary guidelines, and the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Health Council National Interim Guide to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Unhealthy Food and Drink Promotion (external site).

For further information and the evidence behind the major changes, please see:

For assistance on reclassifying products, recipes and/or menus, sign up to FoodChecker (external site) for free or contact FreshSNAP (external site).

The Department of Health and WA's public hospitals are taking steps to increase the healthy food and drink options for staff and visitors through the mandatory Healthy Options WA Food and Nutrition Policy.
Last reviewed: 11-07-2023
Produced by

Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate