Press Release

Minister Shortall Minister of State at the Department of Health addresses the All-Island Obesity Action Forum

Speaking today 15th November 2011 at the Safefood All-Island Obesity Forum “Counting up the Pounds – The economic cost of obesity”, Ms Róisín Shortall, T.D, Minister of State at the Department of Health spoke about the role research plays in public policy development.

She told the audience that there is ample research showing the adverse effects that negative lifestyles have on rates of chronic disease and the burden these place on the quality of life of those affected. Research also tells us that approximately 75% of healthcare expenditure is allocated to the management of chronic disease, including disease in which diet plays a role. Obesity, in particular, is associated with high health care costs and economic productive losses.

“The World Health Organisation in Europe has estimated that a 10-15% increase in chronic diseases would reduce a country’s GDP by an order of 1% over the next decade” said the Minister.

She went on to say that like many problems, a two pronged approach is being taken to tackle the problem. First of all the immediate problem has to be addressed and it was for this reason that her Department developed the Chronic Disease Framework Policy. The Policy was designed to reduce the challenges being placed on the health service and emphasised the need to develop shared and integrated care between hospitals and primary care, thus avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, and delivering improved quality of life for those affected.

At the same time a more long-term approach has to be taken. “There have” the Minister said “been many initiatives and programmes introduced to help people make the healthy lifestyle choices which go hand-in-hand with good health.” More recently algorithms for the treatment of overweight and obesity were developed which will make it easier for health care professionals to monitor and treat overweight and obesity at primary care level. New Healthy Eating Guidelines for the general population will be completed in the coming months. She also spoke of the important role good nutrition and physical activity play in preventing overweight and obesity and referred to the recently launched National Physical Activity Guidelines website, www.getirelandactive.ie, which was developed to become a one-stop shop for physical activity information.

Minister Shortall concluded by reminding people that improving our own health is a responsibility we all share and said that she firmly believe that we must harness all the resources available to us to work seamlessly together to ensure that people can lead balanced and healthy lives.