The importance of telehealth to regional Australians living with obesity

How Eucalyptus is increasing regional access to high-quality weight care
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How Eucalyptus is increasing regional access to high-quality weight care

The health and well-being of Australians living in rural and remote Australia has been labelled ‌a “priority” by the Australian Government [1]. While attempts have been made to build a stronger rural health strategy, including a commitment to expanding bulk billing for primary care services, these attempts largely target financial barriers to access. 

Research suggests that geographical barriers, specifically long travel times between patients and doctors, have a more significant impact on care access for regional Australians [2]. These barriers are particularly challenging for patients with complex conditions – like obesity – who often have to visit multiple providers in different locations. At Eucalyptus, we believe all Australians, regardless of where they live, should have access to quality, comprehensive obesity care.

Considering the life-threatening complications linked to obesity [3] [4] [5] [6], and their impact on individual “healthspan,” it’s crucial that we improve access to quality weight-loss treatment for regional Australians.

How prevalent is obesity in Australia? 

Obesity is fast becoming the most concerning public health issue in the world. In Australia, the situation is particularly alarming, with the proportion of overweight and obese adults being among the highest in the OECD [7].

The numbers paint a clear picture: 

  • A 2023 population study revealed that ⅔ of Australia’s population is either overweight or obese [8]
  • This figure has risen nearly 10 percentage points over the past two decades [9] 
  • Over 30% of Australian adults are obese, climbing from 19.1% in 1995 [10]

The state of obesity care in regional Australia

It’s no secret that access to quality healthcare is an issue in regional Australia. This disparity is even more apparent for those with complex and chronic conditions, like obesity. Most media commentary surrounding regional health has focused on doctor shortages and Medicare reform. While these are both important discussions, increasing GP numbers in regional Australia would likely have only a marginal effect on the overall health of the population. That’s because the vast majority of GP consultations are for non-serious diagnoses and treatment. 

In rarer cases where serious conditions are detected, one of two paths is typically taken: 

  1. If the condition is acute, the patient is referred to an emergency department, where regional patients typically experience shorter wait times than their metro peers [11]
  2. If the condition is chronic, the patient is referred to a specialist, or ideally, a multidisciplinary team of specialists to proceed with ongoing care

Herein lies the issue. Regional patients with chronic conditions struggle to access a range of specialists in face-to-face settings due to the unmanageable travel times. If a regional patient does decide to travel (potentially for several hours) for a consult, they then likely face the additional issue of having to coordinate information between their multiple clinicians. Again, obesity is a complex disease that requires continual treatment from a multidisciplinary team. 

As of March 2023, as few as 16% of specialists routinely use the Government’s My Health Record to document and coordinate care [12]. With all these obstacles, it’s hardly surprising that regional areas have higher rates of obesity than major cities (70% vs 65%) [13] and that regional children aged 2-17 are over 10% more likely to be overweight and obese than their metro peers [14]. For most regional Australians living with obesity, accessing high quality care in face-to-face settings would be comparable to a full-time job commitment.

While lowering access barriers to regional GPs would be a big win for regional healthcare by increasing the rate of chronic disease detection, obesity is unique in the sense that many individuals living with the disease recognise the symptoms themselves. It’s the access to ongoing treatment options following an official diagnosis that remains extremely difficult for regional patients.

How does Eucalyptus improve access to quality weight care for regional Australians? 

No matter where they are in Australia, patients living with obesity can join one of our weight management programs. Juniper and Pilot, two of Eucalyptus’ digital clinics, give regional patients access to qualified medical advice, health coaching, and personalised weight care via our telehealth platforms. As a digital healthcare provider, we use technology to overcome the geographical challenges faced by regional and remote Australians. This allows us to deliver higher touch, higher quality obesity care for all Australians. 

The numbers say it all. Here’s what we’ve achieved since August 2022.

Euc patient statistics

These figures demonstrate how our holistic model of telehealth offers the same standard of care to all Australians, irrespective of their location. Removing access barriers to quality healthcare is imperative to combatting the obesity epidemic. Regional Australians living with excess weight are disadvantaged by their distance from specialist clinics and the lack of data coordination across the Australian health system. Our weight loss programs offer a safe and effective solution to this problem by providing continuous, coordinated care through a rigorous online platform that maximises patient safety and increases the likelihood of successful, long-term weight loss. 



[2]  Shukla, N., Pradhan, B., Dikshit, A. et al. (2020). A review of models used for investigating barriers to healthcare access in Australia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 4087; Ward, B., Humphreys, J., McGrail, M., et al. (2015). Which dimensions of access are most important when rural residents decide to visit a general practitioner for non-emergency care? Australian Health Review, 39: 121-126

[3]  Visaria, A. & Setoguchi, S. (2023). Body mass index and all-cause mortality in a 21st century U.S population: A National Health Interview Survey analysis, PLoS one 18(7); 

[4] Xu, H., Cupples, A., Strokes, A., et al. (2018). Association of obesity with mortality over 24 years of wright history: Findings from the Framingham Heart Study. JAMA Netwe Open, 1(7)

[5] Masters, R. (2023). Sources and severity of bias in estimates of the BMI-mortality association. Population Studies, 77(1): 35-53.

[6] De Gonzalez et al (2010). Body-mass index and mortality among 1.46 million white adults. N Eng J Med, 363:2211-2219




[10] ibid 

[11]  Xu, J., Hardy, L., Gu, C. & Garnett, S. (2018). The trends and prevalence of obesity and morbid obesity among Australian school-aged children 1985-2014. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health; 54(8):907-912.


[13]  Bureau of Health Information (2016). The Insights Series - Healthcare in rural, regional and remote NSW. Sydney (NSW); BHI. 

[14] Australian Digital Health Agency (2023). My Health Record: Statistics and Insights, March 2023.


Dr Louis Talay
Senior Medical Researcher