Overweight and obesity are major public health issues in Australia, associated with significant risk for chronic disease, and large costs for the health system. It is important to monitor overweight and obesity to describe existing health patterns, populations at risk, current health service use, and future demands on the health and welfare system.

This report assesses the potential for existing data sources to improve our understanding of overweight and obesity. Although many of the data sources identified were not designed primarily for monitoring overweight and obesity, they do contain relevant data.

This report acknowledges:

  • Data are available for:
    • behavioural risk factors
    • prevalence of overweight and obesity.
  • Data are available but require further development for:
    • prevention, treatment and management activities for overweight and obesity, particularly to fill substantial gaps in relation to early intervention and prevention activity and care provided in primary health-care settings
    • death and disability associated with overweight and obesity, noting additional information is expected in 2019 from new Australian estimates of burden of disease
    • quality of life associated with overweight and obesity health expenditure associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Future opportunities for improving data include:
    • data linkage to enhance the information that can be gained using existing data enhancing primary health-care data
    • access to complementary novel data sources
    • surveys specific for people who are overweight or obese to; for example, to track their pathways across the health system and impacts on quality of life, and/or specific questions on overweight and obesity in existing surveys.

A 4-step process has been used to assess the utility of different data sources, including an initial stocktake, a review of in-scope data sources, an assessment of individual data sources and lastly an overall assessment. This methodological approach has been adapted from Data sources for monitoring arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions (AIHW 2014).