Obesity Time Bomb Is Ticking

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An international conference is being held in Belfast to look at modern developments in tackling obesity.

The 'All Island Conference on Obesity – Obesity: Weighing up the evidence' was jointly opened by Northern Ireland Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey and Republic of Ireland Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Ms Mary Wallace.

The conference has been organised by the Health Promotion Agency (NI) and the Health Service Executive (RoI) and comes at a time when obesity rates are increasing in both jurisdictions.

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In his opening remarks the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "There is no doubt that the obesity time bomb in Northern Ireland is ticking louder than ever. Our level of obesity, especially amongst our children is incredibly worrying. If we are to tackle this challenge, I strongly believe that public health must be at the centre of what we do.

"The new dedicated Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being will have a central role in driving forward the public health agenda and our cross departmental obesity strategy Fit Futures. We will also continue to work closely across jurisdictions, to share experience and expertise in order to make the best possible inroads into this shared problem."

The minister continued, "Government cannot however tackle obesity on its own. I believe that we can certainly encourage and promote healthy eating and physical activity but as a society, we must take more individual responsibility for our own health outcomes."

Ms Mary Wallace, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion, expressed her concern that the rise in obesity threatens to halt the inroads made in recent years in tackling some of the more traditional killer diseases. The minister referred to recently released figures from the SLAN 2007 Report (Survey of Lifestyle, Attitude & Nutrition) which indicate that 39% of the population of the Republic are overweight and 25% are obese.

Stressing the urgency in tackling the problem of obesity, Minister Wallace said: "Actions taken must target both nutrition and physical activity. Individuals are responsible for lifestyle choices which determine health in later years. It is wise to maintain a healthy weight, thereby avoiding the problem of obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it, which impact on the individual, broader society and also the health services."

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