Obesity policy to be welcomed
The obesity policy and action plan is potentially one of the most important initiatives undertaken since a similar initiative to heighten awareness of the dangers associated with and reduce levels of smoking in this country. The obesity initiative will have positive consequences for the general health of the nation and, as such, it is to be warmly welcomed. However, the extension of the initiative throughout all sections of society must be a priority.
Reducing the extent of of obesity is a key public health priority. There is a real danger that the health gains in life expectancy addressing factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high lipid levels will be reversed due to the rising prevalence of obesity. Recent Irish studies have demonstrated that one in four children is overweight or obese; 60pc of adults surveyed were either overweight or obese, and 52pc of Irish adults aged 50 years and over are at a substantially increased risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease based on their waist circumference.
Obesity causes considerable health complications from premature onset diabetes in children, fertility and pregnancy- related complications in young women, and chronic disease development and premature mortality in the adult population. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for, and worsens outcomes from, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Severely obese people have a premature mortality rate similar to smokers and on average die eight to ten years sooner than people of normal weight. In Ireland, the cost of obesity to the State in 2009 was estimated at €1.13bn. In fact, a 5pc reduction in overweight and obesity levels will result in a €495m reduction in related direct healthcare costs over the next 20 years.