Task force on obesity fails to pack a punch four years on

THE battle against obesity will continue for years to come, it was emphasised yesterday, as it emerged only a slim number of a Government task force plans on fighting the health condition were implemented.

Minister of State Mary Wallace, facing the possibility of being dropped with next week’s shake-up of junior ministers, defended a Department of Health task force, claiming “great work had been carried out”.

However, only 19 of the 93 recommendations put forward by a national task force on obesity — set up four years ago — have been put into practice, a new report reveals.

Research shows almost one-in-four people in Ireland are obese. It is estimated obesity in Ireland is responsible for around 2,000 premature deaths each year. The indirect cost to the economy, it emerged, is around €400 million.

Task force chairman John Treacy, who also heads the Irish Sports Council, said Ireland still had a long fight ahead to stop people becoming dangerously overweight.

“This battle will continue, it’s not a battle that’s going to be won or lost in the next five or ten years. We need to continue to do this. What we’re looking for in Ireland is a cultural shift.”

A review of the work of the task force notes the rates of overweight and obese people continue to rise. The group, set up by Ms Wallace to drive the proposals contained in the task force, is seeking action at the highest level of Government and is demanding the Taoiseach’s department comes on board.

Fundamental changes within the school environments are crucial to battling the health condition, the review notes.

This includes tackling food vending machines, increasing exercise time and addressing the high cost of insurance for recreational areas.

A review report also advises that action was needed in controlling the advertising and marketing of food and drink aimed at kids, particularly material brought to the attention of children through sports clubs or equipment, the review says.

Ms Wallace said there had been some barriers in applying some of task force’s recommendations, including EU constraints and rules under the tax system for certain foods but these were being examined.

Mr Treacy added that Ireland did not want to follow the US route where a third of citizens are overweight.


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