Safefood issued a wake up call aimed at tackling the serious health epidemic of overweight and obesity. New research commissioned by safefood reveals that being overweight is a much more common problem than we think, with only 38% of people (1) believing they’re overweight when in fact 61% are carrying excess weight (2). The new awareness campaign called “Stop the Spread” is alerting people that being overweight is now the ‘norm’, has become visually and socially acceptable and that we no longer recognise the fact that we are carrying extra weight. The campaign’s call to action is urging people to measure their waist to see if they are overweight.
Attending the launch, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Primary Care Ms. Roisin Shortall T.D. said “The issue of overweight and obesity is a major epidemic of our modern society and putting an enormous strain on our hard-pressed health services. We all need to take responsibility and re-assess our own personal weight and this campaign is a timely reminder to take that first step”.
Commenting on the campaign, Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood said: “This campaign should serve as a wake-up call to an epidemic that continues to spread. We need to realise what we think of as “normal” has shifted over the past 20 years; almost 60% of those we surveyed may feel they are a healthy weight but many of those are in fact overweight. We must all take a hard look at the facts, measure and know our waist and do something about it today.”
At present, 2 out of every 3 adults on the island of Ireland are overweight (3) however the new research reveals that 57% of adults (4) feel they don’t need to lose weight. So, a great proportion of the population are in denial, putting themselves at increased risk of well-known diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood added, “It is well known that carrying excess weight around the tummy is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such diabetes and heart disease and more recently cancer. By measuring our waist, we can each get an early warning about our weight and begin to take steps to address it”.
safefood is asking adults on the island of Ireland to measure their waist* and know what their true waist size is – having a waist size greater than 32 inches for a woman or 37 inches for a man is a clear indication that a person is carrying excess weight.
Prof. Donal O’Shea, who leads the Obesity Service in St Columcille’s Hospital Dublin, commented “I am delighted because this campaign is shifting the emphasis to overweight and not just obesity. Because we have edged up in weight over the last 20 years, most people who are overweight think they are just fine because they look “normal”. If you are overweight, all you might need to lose is 6 or 8 pounds – a couple of inches at the waist – to make a big difference to your long-term health. Too often, the focus is on the severe end of the scale where it can be really hard to make progress”.
The “Stop the Spread” campaign also addresses what is called the “social contagion effect”, where the chances of being obese are much more likely in a social circle either within a family or a network of friends. Research (5) has shown that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if they had a friend who became obese. If one spouse is obese, the likelihood that the other spouse could be obese increases by 37%.
Dr. Foley-Nolan added “We are all part of social networks and are influenced by the appearance and behaviour of those around us. Being overweight is now the “norm” and this norm is widespread in our communities throughout our families and friends. We need to stop the spread of this health epidemic by encouraging and motivating ourselves and others to reassess their own waist and weight, take realistic steps to tackle any excess weight, and begin to live a healthier future.”
The “Stop the Spread” campaign is a two-year, all island initiative by safefood and comprises television and radio advertising as well as a campaign ‘pledge’ website at www.safefood.eu. Users can log on, learn how to measure their waist correctly and take one of five campaign pledges if they are carrying excess weight, and share those pledges with friends and family through social media channels like Facebook. safefood’s website also hosts a practical weight loss tool called Weigh2live and a healthy eating approach for families called Little Steps.
Endorsed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Ulster Chemists Association and the Professional Forum of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, the campaign will be supported by pharmacies and chemists across the island of Ireland where consumers can pick up one of 250,000 free measuring tapes from next week in participating outlets.
Consumers are encouraged to access support for sustained weight loss and healthy eating through whatever source they prefer – be this online, through their GP or other healthcare professionals.