Overweight people should be paid to attend weight-loss programmes to reduce the impact the growing obesity epidemic is having on the healthcare system, a group of Australian doctors said Wednesday.

Obesity has more than doubled in Australia in the last 20 years and is placing an uncomfortable strain not only on waistlines but on health services, the Australian General Practice Network said.

To combat the spiralling problem, it wants the government to give the overweight a 170 dollar (141 dollar US) subsidy to do something about their expanding physique.

The network, which represents general practitioners, said effective weight-loss programmes were often too expensive, particularly for those with modest incomes.

"We believe that this (money) will go a long way to helping people get access to accredited weight-loss programmes where the people will be supported," network chairman Tony Hobbs told state radio.

"They'll have goals set, they will be expected to come back at the end of the 12-week programme and be measured to see whether or not they've been able to succeed with their weight-loss programme."

The network said it was important to tackle the issue immediately because of the growing rates of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers linked to obesity.

The top national organisation representing doctors, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), said action should focus on educating people about their health rather than encouraging a quick-fix dieting programme.

"The real issue is educating people overall into adopting a healthy lifestyle, understanding the healthy choices that they need to make and that becoming part of their lives. Not a 12-week programme where a diet and strict controls are in place," AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua told ABC radio. (AFP) -SYDNEY, Sept 12, 2007


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