Speeches

Speaking notes for Mr. Tim O´Malley T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, for the Award Presentation of the Ninth ICA Healthy Eating Recipe Competition

Introduction

I am delighted to be with you today for this special event. I am very pleased to present the prizes to the winners of the very successful Healthy Eating Recipe Competition, now in its ninth year. As you know, this competition is an initiative of the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children. This year, I understand your members were given the challenge of devising a convenient healthy eating recipe, which comprised of at least 1/3 fruit and vegetables, for two adults on a budget of €8.00. This indeed is a difficult challenge. I am delighted, and in keeping with the commitment of ICA members, not surprised that the standard of entry in this year’s competition is in keeping with the very high standards set over the last number of years.

2002 National Healthy Eating Campaign

Today´s competition is part of the Health Promotion Unit´s National Healthy Eating Campaign, which this year has the theme “More Fruit and Vegetables Every Day – The Healthy Eating Way”. The aim of the National Healthy Eating Campaign is to promote and enhance awareness of the healthy eating guidelines. This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Fresh, frozen or tinned – eating one or more extra portions of fruit and vegetables each day is the key message, so that nationally we aim to meet the agreed recommendation of four or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Over the last decade the campaign has prompted the Food Pyramid now acknowledged and accepted as the national guide to healthy eating, and has enhanced public awareness of healthy eating guidelines on fruit and vegetables, high fibre foods, and low fat healthy eating.

Heart Disease

As you are aware, Ireland has the highest premature mortality rate from heart disease in the European Union. One quarter of all deaths are caused by heart disease. While traditionally regarded as a disease affecting men, Cardiovascular Disease is the single leading cause of death among Irish women. Additionally, thousands of Irish people and their families live with heart disease every day, a reality I’m sure many people here today are experiencing.

Government Response

Building Healthier Hearts

The report of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy Group, Building Healthier Hearts, is now well into its implementation phase and has become the blue print for tackling heart disease in Ireland in the long term.

The overall aims identified by the Strategy are to:

  • reduce the risk factor profile in the general population,
  • detect those at high risk,
  • deal effectively with those who have clinical disease, and
  • ensure the best survival and quality of life outcome for those who recover from an acute attack.

The multi-sectoral approach outlined in the report puts an onus on all of us – health care providers, educators, voluntary organisations, like the ICA, and others to promote greater awareness of the importance of taking care of our hearts.

Funding and Posts

To date funding of €45 million has been allocated to the implementation of this Strategy in a planned and structured way. A range of new services have been put in place and approximately 800 new health professional staff have been recruited.

The Government has invested substantially in developing an enhanced dietetic service at health board level. For example the number of community dietitians has increased from 4 in 1995 to 70 in 2002, and the number of hospital based dietitians has increased by 23 in the last two years.

National Lifestyle Survey (SLÁN)

Since 1999 planning for health promotion interventions has been made easier as a result of the comprehensive baseline data provided by the National Lifestyle Survey – SLÁN. While overall 64% of respondents in SLÁN reported consuming the recommended 4 or more servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day there were significant differences across gender, age and social class.

The findings of SLÁN have been borne out by this year´s Health Promotion Unit survey results that found the national per capita average consumption is 3.4 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. These survey findings are encouraging as they indicate that the Irish population is moving towards achieving the healthy eating recommendations for Fruit and Vegetables. I believe these positive findings are at least in part due to the success of annual healthy eating campaigns over the last decade.

When results become available from the second National Lifestyle Survey SLÁN, which was repeated this year, we will be able to compare changes in eating habits by the population since 1999, thereby providing valuable data for future planning and targeting of nutrition health promotion initiatives.

Health Promotion Strategy 2000-2005

Cardiovascular diseases or cancers cause 2 out of every 3 deaths in Ireland. A major challenge for all stakeholders in the food and nutrition business is to prevent these diseases through making the healthy choice the easy choice. The Government´s Strategy in this regard is mapped out in the Health Strategy, Quality & Fairness (2001) and the Health Promotion Strategy 2000 – 2005.

On foot of these Strategy´s, a number of policy initiatives are currently being developed including:

  • Healthy Catering Guidelines for Staff and Visitors in Healthcare Facilities,
  • Minimum Nutritional Standards for Acute Hospitals,
  • Food & Nutrition Guidelines for Pre-schools, and
  • Food & Nutrition Guidelines for Primary Schools.

ICA Competition Winners

As I have already stated, the emphasis of the Healthy Eating Recipe competition this year on “More Fruit and Vegetables” is in keeping with the overall theme of this year’s National Healthy Eating Campaign. There is sometimes a common misconception that healthy food is not tasty food. I believe that all of the winning ICA recipes will go a long way towards showing that “Healthy” food can indeed be tasty and fulfilling.

Conclusion

Before making the presentations to the winners there are a number of people I would like to thank. Firstly, to all ICA members who entered this competition, and for all of you who came here today, from many parts of the country.

I would like to thank the ICA once again for organising this competition, which provides an excellent opportunity to relay the healthy eating messages in an interactive way to a very important target group. I would particularly like to thank Ms Breda Raggett; the ICA President, Ms Mary Birney; the Contest Federation Secretary, and the Working Committee for their input into this competition.

Thanks also to the dedicated work of the ICA members from guilds to national level, which guarantees the success of this competition. Your support is a key factor in ensuring the success of this competition.

Congratulations to the winners and I hope you enjoy your “Healthy Lunch”, made using the winning recipes, and indeed the rest of the day. I will now make the presentations.