Obesity levels continue to rise

 

Less than one-fifth of the recommendations made by a high-level Government taskforce on obesity four years ago have been implemented, according to a review of the response to its report.

Despite the continuing rise in the number of overweight and obese people, just 18 of the 93 recommendations made by the National Taskforce on Obesity have been fully implemented, the review shows.

However, Minister of State at the Department of Health Mary Wallace, who chaired the review, insisted “huge progress” had been made in implementing the taskforce report. Significant progress has been made in one-third of the recommendations, she said, and another one-third had been partially implemented.

Ms Wallace said action was “progressing” on another 28 per cent of recommendations while no progress was made on 9 per cent.

She promised a re-doubling of efforts to “row back the rising tide of overweight and obesity” although this would not be an easy task. “We must continue to work to making it easier for people to make the healthy choices required for them to take better care of themselves an to lead healthy lives, to literally invest in themselves and their futures.”

Some 61 per cent of the Irish population is overweight or obese and the numbers continue to rise every year. Research also shows that 26 per cent of 7-year-old girls and 18 per cent of boys are overweight or obese. The problem is blamed for an estimated 2,000 premature deaths in Ireland each year while the indirect cost is estimated at €400 million.

Sports Council chairman John Treacy, who chaired the original taskforce, agreed with the minister that significant progress had been made in tackling obesity but said a major cultural shift in attitudes toward physical activity and healthy eating was needed if levels of the disease were to be cut.

He expressed disappointment that the taskforce’s call for 30 minutes of physical activity for every schoolchild was rejected. The reasons given were a lack of time in the curriculum, industrial relations issues and cost implications.

The Institute of Public Health (IPH) today welcomed Ms Wallace's comments.

Speaking today, chief executive Dr Jane Wilde said: "Most of the actions needed to prevent obesity fall outside the health sector, and a much wider societal response is required.

"There is a glaring need to build the evidence for effective intervention and to ensure that it informs the design and delivery of primary intervention programmes," Dr Wilde addd.