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HEALTH MINISTER ROBIN SWANN | “We must redouble efforts to tackle obesity”

Following the launch of the UK Government’s new obesity strategy, the Health Minister Robin Swann has said that we must all redouble efforts to address the issue.

Minister Swann said: “We know from the evidence that being overweight or obese puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, as well as from many other life-threatening diseases. It is therefore vital that we redouble our efforts, not only across government and the health service, but also as individuals, to support each other to live healthier lives. “We have been working with our counterparts on a number of the measures announced today – particularly the restrictions on advertising of unhealthy foods and information on front of pack labelling. However many of the actions in the strategy, including the plans around restricting promotions of food high in fat, salt and sugar, are devolved to Northern Ireland and more consideration will need to be given to these.”

The Health Minister added: “While we have effective and evidence based policies and strategies in place we now need to adapt these in light of Covid-19. I have asked the Chief Medical Officer to consider the wider impacts of Covid-19 on the health of our population and the risks and challenges associated with obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption and mental wellbeing.”

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “The Department of Health, along with colleagues in other Government Departments, agencies and partners, have been committed to tackling the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Northern Ireland for many years through our A Fitter Future for All framework. “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to increased risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19. It’s vital that we consider what action can be taken to enable people to help protect themselves against the increased risks from Covid-19 and in turn help protect our health service.

“The main reason we put on weight is because of what we eat and drink, but being more active is important too. We need to support people to make healthier choices and ensure support is there for those who need it. Therefore action must be taken in a coordinated manner by multiple partners and across many settings.”

The UK Government’s new obesity strategy can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-obesity-government-strategy

The Department of Health NI obesity prevention framework, A Fitter Future for All can be found at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/obesity-prevention-framework-and-reports