The Irish Heart Foundation today welcomed the Government’s new obesity policy and action plan, A Healthy Weight for Ireland, but warned that any further “implementation paralysis” in tackling the problem would have devastating consequences for the future health of our children.
Speaking after the launch of the strategy, Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey, said there were many crucial initiatives in the policy, such as the development of guidelines for planners around no fry zones, a national nutrition policy, the appointment of a clinical lead for obesity and a special focus on disadvantaged areas for health promotion programmes.
“But we need to ensure that the implementation paralysis that has accompanied previous policies is not repeated. It’s a worrying sign that there is currently no dedicated funding for the strategy, whilst we already know that one of its key measures, the imposition of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax, has been postponed until 2018 at least, despite overwhelming public and political support,” Mr Macey said.
“We congratulate the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, for bringing forward this critical initiative. But many of the planned actions fall within the responsibility of other Departments and we are concerned about whether their clear commitment to tackling obesity extends across the whole of Government.
“Make no mistake, the longer it takes to address this problem effectively, the more children will be condemned to lives dominated by ill-health, chronic disease and the prospect of an early grave. We cannot afford any further failures of political will on this issue,” he insisted.
Mr Macey added that if there is a genuine intention to implement the policy, there must be time-bound targets that will be monitored; indicators to track the success of the policy, with figures published annually; and the appointment of named and accountable officials responsible for implementation in each Government Department and agency.
He added that the Irish Heart Foundation was also concerned about the significant role given to the food and beverage industry in the strategy. This includes a forum for engagement with industry and a voluntary code on marketing of unhealthy products to children.
“The only way such plans could work is if industry takes action that puts the interests of public health above its own corporate interests. Sadly, that just isn’t going to happen.”