‘No room for complacency’ in tackling childhood obesity

Ireland has to be proactive in tackling obesity, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has warned.

“There is absolutely no room for complacency in relation to obesity in this country. We have a major challenge in this country. It’s costing our health service a huge amount,” he warned.

“We’re seeing the impact of it. You only need to talk to the clinical community, whether it’s in relation to more cancers, whether it’s in relation to chronic disease.

“We’re really seeing the impact of obesity take hold and if, as a country, or I, as minister for health, don’t take action now, I think we would be negligent in relation to our duties,” he asserted.

Mr Harris was speaking yesterday at the launch of a five-year public health campaign, aimed at a healthy weight for children.

He said it was designed by parents and is neither “preachy” nor a form of “lecturing.

“The great thing about this campaign is that it is designed by parents and, rather than being preachy or lecturing to parents, it’s about talking to parents about the practical changes they want to make in their own family lives that can help their children get fit and healthy,” the minister said.

“It’s basically sending out a message that you can change one thing at a time: Rome wasn’t built in a day, don’t try to go into your house and change all of the habits overnight, but, actually, pick one daily win,” he said.

The minister was asked if the campaign would add to the pressure that some young people feel around body image. While he acknowledged that many people in Ireland have eating disorders, he said the campaign was about health, regardless of what anyone looked like.

“I am very conscious of the fact that we have a lot of people in this country who experience eating disorders and I’m very conscious that, particularly your teenage years, can be a very difficult period of time for many, in relation to body image, but the purpose of this campaign is to talk directly to parents, so it’s not preachy, it’s not lecture-y, it’s not putting peer pressure on young people.

“It’s talking about how we can all change our lives, regardless of our weight, regardless of our body image, to try and lead a more healthy life,” Mr Harris said.

“This is not about putting any pressure on young people, from a body-image point of view. Rather, this is about empowering all of us, to take care of our own health,” he added.


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