Changing Behavior Can Improve Your Health
Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has said this is the decade to encourage people to change their eating habits and lifestyles.
In his first report as Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride said: "While the health of the population is improving, not everyone is benefiting from these improvements."
Dr McBride said: "While health professionals and Government can help in bringing about improvements - all of us as individuals need to take control of our own behaviours and lifestyles, in order to make a real difference."
Commenting on the alarming rise in obesity Dr McBride said: "Over 20% of Primary One children are overweight or obese. Junk food and a lack of exercise are contributing to the problem.
"The importance of a healthy diet and taking more exercise is well recognised by all of us. We must act now to avoid a future where many of our children could face significant health problems such diabetes, heart disease and cancer."
Dr McBride welcomed the ban on smoking in public places saying: "It will save lives and protect the health of many workers. But we cannot be complacent as 350,000 people here are still smoking. Too many young people still smoke, Northern Ireland has the second highest percentage in Europe of 14 year olds who smoke. We must re-double our efforts to encourage people to kick the habit and avoid serious illness such as cancer and heart disease."
In his Report, the Chief Medical Officer also highlighted a number of other significant health challenges including binge drinking, poor dental health, the rise in sexually transmitted infections, suicide and mental health saying: "These are issues which continue to challenge us in the medical professional and as a society."
Many of these issues and the resulting ill health and premature death have a disproportionate effect on people who live in the more deprived areas. Dr McBride said: "Sadly where we live can have a major affect on our health and can determine how long we will live. Those in our community who live in the most deprived areas have the poorest health."