Soaring obesity 'a risk to years of health gains'
A 30pc hike in adult obesity levels over the past decade could put in jeopardy many of the health gains made in the same period, an official report warned yesterday.
Obesity levels in Irish adults have increased by one-third in the past decade, the results of a new survey show.
The number of overweight adults has increased by up to 12pc in the same period, according to the 2010 trends report from the Department of Health, published yesterday.
"If sustained ... it will have significant implications for health service provision," the report also warned.
The statistics also show that while alcohol and cigarette consumption have shown a gradual decline since 2003, our teenagers continue to drink much more than their European counterparts.
The survey showed that 30pc of 15-year-olds have been drunk within the preceding month compared with 20pc in Europe.
They also show a big increase in the number of suicides registered in the 2008/2009 period but a drop of 9pc in the past 10 years.
According to the survey, in overall health terms the past 10 years paints a picture of rapid drops in mortality rates accompanied by a rise in life expectancy.
Death from circulatory system illnesses, like heart disease and strokes, fell by 40pc between 2000 and 2009 while cancer levels also fell by 11pc.
However, despite the drop, Ireland remains more than 5pc above the EU mortality rate for cancer and deaths from smoking-related diseases.
Better health is also related to higher incomes among the general population.
More than 90pc of higher income earners believe they have better health than those on lower wages, where the rate is just over 70pc.
Other trends include a persistent rise in the caesarean section rate, which now stands at 26pc compared with World Health Organisation recommended levels of 15pc.
Fine Gael health spokesman James Reilly said the statistics, particularly on obesity, showed how the Government failed to address the problem during the boom times.
"Despite the much publicised government taskforce, many of the recommendations have not been implemented," he said.
"What's needed is a cross-departmental initiative, including education, sport and health."
Health Minister Mary Harney said while improvements had been made over the past decade, we were now entering a period when budgets were strained.
"Protecting and enhancing our health gains and continuing to improve health services will require working both more efficiently and more effectively," she said.
Public health expenditure for 2010 will be more than 4pc less than the previous year's figure of €14.8bn.