Press Release

WHO Obesity forecasting study results

The Department of Health acknowledges that overweight and obesity is a significant problem in Ireland. Tackling overweight and obesity is a complex problem which requires multi-agency, multi-level and coordinated approaches. Data is due to be presented today by the World Health Organization at the European Congress on Obesity.

A new Obesity Policy and Action Plan is in development by the Department of Health to address policy and intervention options in the context of prevention and management of overweight and obesity and is being supported by a consultation process currently underway.

The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan today commented “The Department is developing a new Obesity Policy and Action Plan. We had a major stakeholder consultation last week on what we need to do collectively to address the challenge of overweight and obesity.  The consultation brought together key stakeholders to prioritise the actions which Government and other sectors need to take over the next 10 years to tackle overweight and obesity. We will also be consulting with children and with health care professionals and providers. The feedback will provide the foundation for action by key players. This Policy and Action Plan will address prevention, treatment and research. It will be finalised this year and brought to Government for approval.”

Significant progress has been made in implementing Healthy Ireland, the national framework for action to improve the health and wellbeing of the country, published in March 2013. The Framework takes a “whole of Government” and “whole of society” approach to improving health and wellbeing which is based on the international experience and thinking in addressing the broad social determinants of health and to address the environmental conditions which are leading to health problems. This includes working across all Government Departments and with key agencies and other sectors to create an environment and culture which supports and empowers people to make informed healthier choices and to facilitate a variety of stakeholders to play their part in improving health and wellbeing for all.

Dr John Devlin, Chair of the Department of Health’s  Special Action Group on Obesity  said “there needs to be a whole-society approach to overweight and obesity and we are using Healthy Ireland as the key mechanism to address overweight and obesity across a suite of actions to address this epidemic.  People also need to know what they’re eating and this is why new Healthy Eating Guidelines are being developed as well as calorie posting on menus in pubs, fast foods outlets and restaurants. Better labelling of foods and continued reformulations of processed foods is also very important.”

The development of a new Obesity Policy and Action Plan currently underway will build on the work of the Special Action Group on Obesity which was established in 2011 to develop a range of actions to help curb obesity. The Special Action Group on Obesity has been working on a number of initiatives including

  • a Code of Practice in relation to advertising, promotion and sponsorship of food and drink.
  • a media campaign to communicate practical solutions for parents to adopt in order to tackle the everyday habits that are associated with excess weight in childhood
  • Revising the Healthy Eating Guidelines
  • Developing Healthy Eating Guidelines for 1-5 year old children
  • Treatment Guidelines for Overweight and Obesity
  • Calorie Posting in restaurants

In addition, due to very worrying concerns in relation to low levels of physical activity in Ireland, the Department of Health and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and a number of other key stakeholders, are currently developing a National Physical Activity Plan to encourage greater levels of physical activity by everyone living in Ireland. This is the first time that concerted action will be taken by a range of different stakeholders to get more people in Ireland active. It is expected that the Plan will be launched later in the year.

The Department of Health urges caution in interpreting the data due to be presented today by the World Health Organization at the European Congress on Obesity as they are based on a number of different types of data sources including self-reported and are not necessarily directly comparable.