Action needed now in tackling obesity problem or else, warns Irish Heart Foundation

Any further “implementation paralysis” in tackling Ireland’s obesity problem will have devastating consequences for the future health of its children, the Irish Heart Foundation has warned.

The Healthy Weight for Ireland plan covers the 10-year period to 2025 and sets targets to be achieved.

Chris Macey, head of advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation, said the plan contains multiple measures to tackle obesity.

He pointed to the development of guidelines for planners around “no-fry zones”, a national nutrition policy, the appointment of a clinical lead for obesity, and a special focus on disadvantaged areas for health promotion programmes.

“But we need to ensure that the implementation paralysis that has accompanied previous policies is not repeated,” said Mr Macey.

“It’s a worrying sign that there is currently no dedicated funding for the strategy, while we already know that one of its key measures, the imposition of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax, has been postponed until 2018 at least, despite overwhelming public and political support.”

The foundation is also concerned about the significant role given to the food and beverage industry in the strategy.

“The only way such a plan could work is if the industry takes action that puts the interests of public health above its own corporate interests. Sadly, this is not going to happen,” said Mr Macey.

The Irish Beverage Council criticised the call for the immediate introduction of a levy on sugar-sweetened drinks, claiming there is no evidence an additional tax on soft drinks would achieve the desired public health outcomes.

Its director, Kevin McPartlan, said the soft drinks industry had invested heavily in the reformulation of their products over many years to reduce the amount of sugar and number of calories they contained.

“We will continue with this work, but our capacity to invest further is reduced if our sales revenue suffers through a discriminatory tax on soft drinks, which account for just 3% of calories consumed in Ireland,” he said.

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