Saturday 1 October 2016

Obesity report from WHO demands action

Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30

Parents should be actively discouraged from driving children to school; proper eating and exercise should be extended as part of the curriculum and real action taken against fizzy drinks, sugar-soaked foods and our unhealthy lifestyle (Stock)
Parents should be actively discouraged from driving children to school; proper eating and exercise should be extended as part of the curriculum and real action taken against fizzy drinks, sugar-soaked foods and our unhealthy lifestyle (Stock)

It is no secret that Ireland has an obesity crisis, but the looming scale of the problem is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. A few headline figures from a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which will be published in full today at an international conference, are truly frightening. In 15 years' time, almost the entire Irish population will be overweight, and by 2030, more than half of Irish women will be classified as obese, overtaking even the number of obese men.

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Sometimes, because an issue is flagged as not happening for years to come, we are inclined to shrug and ask, what has it got to do with us? The question is - do we want to become the 'fat capital' of Europe?

Obviously not. But what are we doing about it? There are obesity 'deniers', but you only have to observe people in the streets to realise that dramatic changes are taking place to the physiology of Irish people. At one level, you have a very active, healthy-eating, weight-conscious, sports-participating cohort, but unfortunately the majority of us, it seems, are slipping into a sedentary lifestyle, driving everywhere, eating processed foods and spending our time on the couch looking at television or at a screen.

The weather is no excuse, as we have one of the most temperate climates in the world. It is appalling to imagine that a once hardy race will soon morph into an overweight population with all the attendant health problems and costs. It is obvious that unless something is done, and done soon, we will sleepwalk into this new, obese Ireland.

Like drink driving, the authorities need to go back to basics. Schools need to introduce a more exercise-friendly regime.

Parents should be actively discouraged from driving children to school; proper eating and exercise should be extended as part of the curriculum and real action taken against fizzy drinks, sugar-soaked foods and our unhealthy lifestyle.

Experts have been telling us about the detrimental effects of sugar and salt on the population - but nobody has had the courage to introduce fat and sugar taxes.

This WHO report is a wake-up call and a national embarrassment. We need to listen.

Irish Independent

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