When reflecting on our nation, one tends to recall the poem I love a sunburnt country, penned by Australian author, Dorothea Mackellar in 1904. In her poem Mackeller describes our majestic, sun-drenched country as “a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.” She paints an idealised portrait of Australia as a “wide brown land” of “far horizons,” a land of “jewel-sea”.

Mackellar’s romantic “land of the rainbow gold” continues to ring true to an extent. However, it is the health of her population that is suffering from the weight of chronic disease.

Our “opal-hearted country” is battling alarming rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australians spend an average of 39 hours per week remaining idle, 13 hours of which are consumed by TV. Alarmingly, 5-to-17 year-olds spend, on average, only 1.5 hours per day engaged in physical activity and more than 2 hours in front of a screen.

Obesity in particular is at epidemic levels, with more than 14 million Australians classified as overweight or obese. Obesity is currently the single biggest threat to our collective public health. By 2025, the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute forecasts close to 80 per cent of all Australian adults and one-third of Australian children will be overweight or obese.

While we continue to worship the sun in Mackellar’s “sunburnt country”, soaking up rays is having fatal consequences. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma world-wide. This deadly disease, which claims the lives of more than 10,300 Australians each year, is known as our nation’s national cancer. Public health campaigns encouraging Australians to cover up as “there is nothing healthy about a tan” are working hard to redress this issue. But much more work needs to be done.

The state of our nation’s health is certainly on the decline. Hence VIVA!s ongoing commitment to, and partnership with health professionals, patient advocates and everyday Australians battling chronic disease, to inform, educate and improve our community’s health and well-being.

Our nation’s health ‘facts & stats’

  • Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma world-wide
  • 5.6 million Australian adults have high cholesterol
  • >900,000 Australians have diabetes
  • 6.2% of all Australian adults are living with current and long-term stroke or vascular disease
  • 1-in-3 Australian women and 1-in-2 Australian men are diagnosed with cancer before 85 years of age.
  • Approximately 1 person, every 6 minutes, is diagnosed with dementia – the third leading cause of Australian deaths.