Sunday 20 January 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'New Year's resolutions to change our habits take on a whole new urgency'

 

Obesity is still down the scale of priorities of the Government. Stock photo: PA
Obesity is still down the scale of priorities of the Government. Stock photo: PA
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The timing is perfect. As thousands of people may be about to fall off the wagon of their new year diet and detox regime in comes the chilling figures showing more of us are sliding into overweight and obesity.

In post-recession 2015, some 60pc were overweight or obese. But in the more economically comfortable 2017, this rose to 62pc.

That amounts to nearly 100,000 more people with a weight problem in two years.

The warning that Ireland is on course to become the fattest nation in Europe may turn out to be true.

It's not surprising given ongoing surveys showing that our lifestyle habits of lack of exercise and poor eating habits do not reflect our good intentions.

But what is worrying is that better-off people are now increasingly getting to grips with their weight problems, while it is on the rise among poor sectors.

The reasons are complex but as Dr Donal O'Shea, the HSE's national lead on obesity is concerned, there is a neglect by the Government of investment in prevention and treatment. He has instanced medications which can now be bought and prescribed to reduce weight and curb appetite.

However, they are expensive and are not covered for reimbursement, leaving them out of reach among the less well-off.

The public waiting list for gastric bypass surgery is now so long that public patients can wait seven years for an operation, with some dying while they are in the queue.

Obesity is still down the scale of priorities of the Government with just €5m allocated to Healthy Ireland, the policy which is supposed to enhance the wellness and improve the habits of the nation across various departments. The health consequences of being overweight and obese are still underestimated.

You don't need to be obese to be at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The increase in binge drinking is particularly disappointing after dipping to 37pc in 2016, it is not back to 39pc. It leads to social harm and high-calorie intake.

Irish Independent

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