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Health Focus: Obesity

16 November 09 19:32 GMT

The Assembly's Health Committee has released a report following an inquiry into obesity which advises urgent action be taken by the executive to tackle the problem before it reaches unmanageable levels.

Among its twenty-four recommendations are the implementation and development of a robust strategy across the departments including Health and Education.

The report also calls for PE to be made compulsory in schools and subject to regular monitoring.

Between February and June this year, the Health Committee took formal evidence from seventeen separate organisations. Both written and oral evidence was given by groups including health professionals, academics, and sporting bodies including organisations outside Northern Ireland.

The Chairman of the Health Committee, Jim Wells, said:

"Through the most recent research, we know that 59 per cent of all adults here are either overweight or obese, with 22 per cent of children falling into the same category."

"If we continue to eat and exercise at the current levels academics predict that obesity threatens to engulf the entire health service and it will have a very serious impact on society and the economy."

In response the Department of Health has begun to develop a whole life course approach called the New Life Course Strategy.

This is replacing the 'Fit Futures Initiative' which focused on tackling obesity in children and young people. Instead, the Department wants a plan that will incorporate a person's health from the cradle to the grave.

For this new plan to be implemented, the report recommends that it is jointly led by the Health and Education departments, as happened in England.

But it stresses that there must be strong effective leadership and, in a rare move, suggests funding be ring-fenced for at least the first phase of implementation to ensure it is not postponed due to other emerging problems.

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