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Monday 20 November 2017

Reilly: Parents could end up burying their overweight children

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

PARENTS could be burying their youngsters unless the growing problem of childhood obesity is tackled, Health Minister James Reilly has warned.

A 64-point action plan to make Ireland a healthier place to live by 2025 has been unveiled by the Government to improve the well-being of future generations.

Obesity, mental health, smoking, alcohol and drugs are among the key areas to be overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy, to be chaired by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Dr Reilly warned two in every three adults and 20% of all children are overweight or obese, which can lead to dementia, stroke and diabetes.

"If we do not tackle this problem we could very well be the first generation to be burying the generation behind us, to bury our children," he said.

"That's an appalling legacy to think about. We must take action and Healthy Ireland shows us the path to addressing this most serious issue."

Health chiefs revealed 18 months of groundwork have gone in to the Healthy Ireland initiative, which includes 64 actions under six themes and aims to involve all government departments, local authorities, public-sector organisations, communities and individuals.

Its stated goals are to increase the proportion of people who are healthy, reduce health inequalities, protect public from threats to health and well-being, and create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their part.

Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe, director of health and well-being at the Department of Health, stressed all agencies had to support the idea of improving health across all sectors of society.

"The purpose is to engage policy leaders across government and society to achieve these goals," she added.

Dr O'Keeffe said her vision is to have a healthy Ireland where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and well-being to their full potential, where well-being is valued and supported at every level of society and is everyone's responsibility.

It is claimed the plan can be delivered through the leadership of the cabinet committee, rigorous planning, reporting and evaluation, and by devising a plan to increase levels of activity across the population.

Cross-department measures being mooted include a daily menu with healthy and cheap foods on the Department of Agriculture website and the Department of Environment providing safe places to exercise through councils, Dr Reilly said.

He stood over plans to stop alcohol firms sponsoring sports events, said he wants each cigarette to cost one euro each "so people would think long and hard before they inhale long and hard" and insisted his idea of a sugar tax has not gone away.

The minister also maintained it was the right time to have the plan in place despite Government and households having to cut costs.

"We want to empower people, we want to empower patients with more information, more transparency, more accessibility," he said.

"I think during the celtic tiger we lost our way and got totally focused in on the cost and price of everything, and we forgot the value of things. The value of family, the value of friends, the value of community, the value of your health.

"I know many a wealthy man and woman who would give it away if they could have their good health back."

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