Sunday 21 January 2018

'No point giving out about health service if we don't change lifestyles'

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy outside Leinster House Photo: Tom Burke
Marcella Corcoran Kennedy outside Leinster House Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

There is "no point in complaining" about the problems in the health service unless we are willing to change our lifestyles, a minister has said.

Junior Health Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the country was heading for a major obesity and alcohol crisis which would add to the pressure on hospitals.

"We have to join up the dots in the health service in terms of the waiting lists and the way we are behaving," she said.

"There's no point in complaining about the problems we have in our health service despite the fact there is so much money going into it.

"If you take out the money that is going into obesity and that is required because of our alcohol consumption, the €14.6bn is gone down quite quickly to about €12bn. We have to be really conscious of all of this."

In an interview with the Irish Independent, the Public Health Minister said people needed to be "brutally honest" about their diets.

"There is a link between the obesity problem we have and delays in hospitals, whether that's waiting times or A&Es. It's all connected with the health of the people," she said. "We are fast heading to be one of the most obese countries in Europe."


In early 2016, the minister surprised colleagues by announcing to the Dáil that she was obese.

"It slipped out but I had been thinking about it, obviously. I hadn't been to the doctor for three years for a health check and she said to me 'you've put on a stone and a half'.

"I couldn't believe it because my life is so busy. Post-election, I thought I must have lost weight. But I wasn't very friendly with the weighing scales for a long time," she said.

The Offaly TD said she felt "very healthy and had loads of energy".

"It wasn't something that really bothered me massively. I thought 'I'm in my 40s/50s, I'm bound to put on a few pounds'."

She said that after consulting booklets on bodyweight she realised she was "into the obesity category, heading out of it into the very obese".

"So I thought 'God, I better do something about it'. Energy bars are a disaster for me. I had energy bars in the car all the time. It's things like that which I thought were good decisions," she said.

"Portion size is another huge part of it. There's 400 calories in a scone. A glass of wine could be 100 calories if you get a small one, or if you're pouring yourself it could be 175."

As part of the National Obesity Plan, the Department of Health is to appoint a clinical lead on obesity next year. It has also revised healthy eating guidelines and launched a national activity plan.

"A lot of technology means our children are sedentary to a huge extent. A lot of adults are leading sedentary lifestyles. Activity helps with your stress levels and weight," the junior minister said.

Irish Independent

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