Australians support mandatory fitness testing to combat childhood obesity

Almost four in five Australians (78%) support mandatory fitness testing for school children to combat childhood obesity, according to a new public opinion poll by Research Australia.

Support for mandatory fitness testing was almost as high amongst households with dependent children under the age of 16 as those without, with 77% of parents supporting such a measure.

Research Australia Chief Executive Officer Rebecca James said such strong support for mandatory fitness testing is surprising given expert opinion on the issue has been divided.

"People are obviously concerned about obesity but this raises the question of whether addressing obesity is the responsibility of individuals or society," Ms James said.

Reflecting the community's increased focus on healthy lifestyles, the poll also found two thirds of those surveyed will seek information on exercise, nutrition and diet in the next six months, far more than issues such as cancer and heart disease.

Almost all Australians (96%) said they were aware of how to live healthily but only one quarter of people who said they understood their own "health risks and health issues" always acted on this understanding.

"Most people say they understand how to lead a healthy life and yet this understanding contradicts with the way we actually live," Ms James said.

Eighty seven per cent of those surveyed thought there should be more funding for preventive health care research.

"We need more research to find out how we can ensure Australians translate knowledge of healthy living into actually living healthily," Ms James said.

The public opinion poll looked at a range of health and medical research issues including community support for funding of health and medical research, and stem cell research.

An overwhelming 90% of people surveyed recognised health and medical research as an industry important to Australia's future, up 4% on last year's poll.

This support extended to a strong endorsement of the 2006 Federal Budget commitment of substantial new funding for health and medical research.

Eighty one per cent of Australians approved of the increased funding from $430 million this year to $718 million by 2009-2010 for the National Health and Medical Research Council.

There was strong community support for research industry innovation with 80% of those surveyed agreeing that the Federal Government should focus more on innovative industries such as health and medical technologies and research.

Seventy two per cent of Australians agreed the Federal Government should provide more tax incentives for emerging Australian health and biotechnology companies to conduct and commercialise their research here.

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The public opinion poll of 802 adults across Australia was conducted online by Crosby|Textor in September 2006. Full copies of the survey are available at www.researchaustralia.org.

About Research Australia

Research Australia is a unique national alliance of over 190 member and donor organisations with a common mission to make health and medical research a higher national priority. For more information on Research Australia visit www.researchaustralia.org


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