A LEADING health chief has revealed obesity causes an estimated 450 deaths a year in Northern Ireland. Health Promotion Agency Chief Executive Dr Brian Gaffney joined leading obesity experts in Belfast last week to discuss how to tackle the problem.
The conference ‘Obesity: weighing up the evidence’, which took place at the Europa Hotel, was been organised by the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland (HPA) and the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland (HSE).
IN THE PHOTO
(L-R) Mary Wallace, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Republic of Ireland; Dr Brian Gaffney, Chief Executive of the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland; Michael McGimpsey, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety Northern Ireland and Dr Patrick Doorley, National Director of Population Health, Health Service Executive, Republic of Ireland.
Dr Brian Gaffney said: “Obesity is estimated to be causing around 450 deaths each year in Northern Ireland with a cost of around £500 million to the economy.
“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers as well as having a major impact on education, employment and mental and emotional health.
“Improving nutrition and increasing levels of physical activity has never been more important and this conference aims to examine how we can combat the potential health and financial crisis we are facing”.
The number of overweight and obese people across Ireland continues to rise. In Northern Ireland 59 per cent of adults and 26 per cent of children are overweight or obese. In the Republic of Ireland 50 per cent of adults are overweight or obese and 23 per cent of boys and 28 per cent of girls (aged 4–16) are overweight or obese.
Catherine Murphy, Assistant National Director, Population Health – Health Promotion, Health Service Executive, said: “This conference affords delegates, not just from the health sector, but also our colleagues in government, industry, local authorities, education and sporting, community and voluntary organisations, the opportunity to discuss how we, in our various settings, can address the obesogenic environment and influence the development of national, regional and local approaches to help combat overweight and obesity throughout the island of Ireland.”
The World Health Organisation reports that obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges and has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. In New Zealand however, the rate of increase of obesity is beginning to slow down.
Victoria Evans, Senior Communications Advisor at the Ministry of Health in New Zealand, told delegates: “In response to the obesity epidemic the New Zealand government developed the Healthy Eating – Healthy Action strategy with the key goals of improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and reducing obesity.
“A large amount of work has been underway at a national, regional and local level to improve the lifestyles of all New Zealanders with initiatives focusing on priority groups which include Maori and Pacific peoples, children and young people and people on low incomes.
“New Zealand has managed to slow the rate of increase of obesity since 2002, but more work is still needed before obesity rates begin to decline.”
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