Minister promises funding for obesity strategy, but doesn't specify how much

Minister promises funding for obesity strategy, but doesn't specify how much
Pic: Collins

There "absolutely will" be funding for a major new obesity strategy, but the Health Minister Simon Harris would not be drawn on exactly how much.

Minister Harris today announced details of the plan which aims to help adults and children to reduce their excess weight by 0.5% a year, over the next 10 years.

Children were also consulted on the plan and they will be helped through education programmes at school.

The plan has been described as incredibly ambitious and Minister Harris said it is not budget day yet, but there will be funding for the strategy.

He said: "This is a priority area and the HSE service plan for 2017 will reflect funding going into this area.

"But again we've got to highlight the fact that it's not all about funding, it's about changing practice, it's about everybody in government, everybody in the State, every individual in this country taking a degree of responsibility.

"This is a major public health issue."

The Government announced 60 actions today to improve people's health in Ireland and to reduce the burden of obesity across society.

The Minister's launched today's plan - “A Healthy Weight for Ireland - Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016- 2025” (available below) - saying obesity "represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today".

He said that levels of overweight and obesity have increased dramatically in recent years with 60% of adults and one in four children in Ireland either overweight or obese, representing an estimated cost to society of more than €1bn a year.

Mr Harris said: “Rising levels of overweight and obesity are placing an increasing burden on individuals and society and this represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today.

"While lifestyle choices are made by individuals and families, Government can and must help to empower people make these healthy choices. We have a responsibility to influence the environment and conditions which help people to have their desired quality of life and enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential.”

The Ministers announced a range of actions which they say would be undertaken over the coming years.

    These include:

  • new national Healthy Eating Guidelines
  • Calorie Posting Legislation
  • Development of a Nutrition Policy
  • A new clinical Lead for Obesity will be appointed in the HSE
  • Prioritisation of Obesity services in the HSE service plans for 2017 and subsequent years
  • Support for introduction of a Sugar Levy to encourage a reduction in the rates of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Working with key stakeholders to develop a voluntary industry Code of Practice re food advertising, promotion and marketing
  • “Whole of school” approaches to healthy lifestyles with the Department Education and Skills
  • Development of guidelines in relation to the built environment
  • Agreement on food reformulation targets with the food industry and establishment of a forum for engagement with industry on best practice initiatives towards a healthy food environment

Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, was also at the launch and she said that the report outlines the views of young people on what helps them and what challenges they face in having a healthy lifestyle.

Pic: Collins
Pic: Collins

Dr Zappone said: "Body image and media influences were identified as the main barriers to a healthy lifestyle among teenagers, including the pressure to conform to a particular body image. Exam stress and heavy study workloads were identified as contributing to sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.

"Other school-related issues identified by young people include their criticisms of the teaching of social, personal and health education (SPHE) and the lack of choice in physical education, with the few alternatives to team sports it offers and its failure to cater for different interests.

"There is a growing body of evidence on the benefits of giving children and young people a voice in decisions that affect their lives, including the fact that it leads to more effective polices and services."


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