Fine Gael Cork South Central Deputy, Jerry Buttimer, has called for the appointment of an ‘obesity czar’ to highlight the problems created by overweight and obesity. Deputy Buttimer raised the increasing incidence of obesity in the Dáil during Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health.
“I raised the issue of obesity with the Minister because it is an increasing problem across all sectors and age groups of society. I am pleased that the Minister is considering my suggestion to appoint an obesity czar in the form of a high-profile person who could front the campaign, highlighting the problems posed by obesity and educating people on leading a healthy lifestyle.
“The incidences of obesity have increased over the last 20 years; in 1990 one in ten Irish men were obese, now it is one in four. Obesity in women has risen from 13% to 21%. Carrying excessive weight can have health consequences for individuals, causing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It also places an increased strain on health services, resulting in expenditure of approximately €30 million for in-patient costs. All of these reasons make it essential that we have a robust policy in place to tackle this increasing problem.
“In the Dáil the Minister outlined the work he is doing to tackle this issue. He has set up a Special Action Group on Obesity which will concentrate on healthy eating guidelines, restricting the advertising of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt to children, nutritional labelling and calorie posting on menus. We need collaboration and a multi-agency approach to deal with obesity. No single measure will address this problem.
“When I was in the Seanad, I called for a national plan of action in order to tackle the problem of obesity. At the time I said that there will not only be a cost to the State from a financial aspect in terms of health but also from a societal aspect. I welcome that the Minister is developing a comprehensive plan to deal with this growing problem.
“Having taken part in RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, I can appreciate the struggle and the commitment that is involved in changing lifestyle in order to lose weight. It is important that these individual goals are supported by Government policy. Over the next month or so I will be chairing meetings of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children which will prioritise this issue, looking at the best practice measures to reverse current trends.”