Tuesday 22 January 2019

Editorial: 'Ireland needs a new resolve in the battle against obesity'

'Almost two-thirds of our people (62pc) are overweight or obese; and almost one-fifth of the population (18.8pc) experiences ‘enforced deprivation’' Stock photo: PA
'Almost two-thirds of our people (62pc) are overweight or obese; and almost one-fifth of the population (18.8pc) experiences ‘enforced deprivation’' Stock photo: PA
Editorial

Editorial

It is often argued 99pc of all statistics tell only 49pc of the story; yet every so often one or two jump out at us that command immediate attention.

'Ireland's Facts and Figures 2018' is replete with figures which we need to examine very carefully.

Almost two-thirds of our people (62pc) are overweight or obese; and almost one-fifth of the population (18.8pc) experiences 'enforced deprivation'.

This means they are too poor to buy two or more basics such as two pairs of strong shoes, or a meal with meat, every second day.

The health and social implications for the country are concerning. The Central Statistics Office report also tells us how too many binge drink on a regular basis as incomes have risen.

It has also emerged how too many cannot afford basics even as others over-indulge.

The medical profession has long told us how no disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.

Yet obesity continues to be a time-bomb: We have one of the highest rates in Europe with one in four children overweight. Being obese can raise blood cholesterol levels, increase blood pressure and enhance the risk of developing diabetes. But the report also highlights how a sizeable proportion of the population cannot afford the basics.

Last April the Irish Heart Foundation listed childhood obesity as the greatest single threat to the health of this generation of children and young people.

State-funded research revealed 85,000 children on the island of Ireland will die prematurely due to obesity, while children as young as eight were presenting with high blood pressure. Young people were showing up with levels of heart disease normally only found among the middle aged.

Once again it is the lower echelon of income earners who are most adversely affected.

Some may say much of our current ill-health is down to lifestyle choices.

There are many factors influencing behaviour; stress, anxiety and poverty all play a major part.

The Healthy Ireland Framework is intended to be a pathway to protect the population but it must be adequately resourced and promoted. When Franklin D Roosevelt was trying to rebuild America in the '30s he proposed a New Deal to respond to the dire need for relief.

He set himself a challenge, which was: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

We know what the facts are. So what will be the "test for our progress" as we begin a new year?

Irish Independent

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