Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has called on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to publish an annual report on the progress of implementing the ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’.

The Sinn Féin TD said the action plan is now two years old and despite the government saying it would report annually, the Department of Health has not produced a report on its progress in implementing the plan.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“In September 2016, the government published an obesity plan for the State entitled ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’.

“The action plan was welcomed by all TDs and we supported the action plan’s principles of trying to reverse obesity trends, preventing health complications, and reducing the overall burden for individuals, families, the health system, and the wider society and economy.

“The plan is now two years old and despite assurances from the government that it would report on its implementation annually, we have not seen anything from the Department of Health in terms of the progress of implementing the plan, and in particular in relation to the implementation of ‘Ten Steps Forward’ which is the key section in preventing overweight and obesity.

“Without the provision of an annual report, we cannot benchmark the progress of the plan and how it is impacting on obesity in the State.”

Crowe continued:

“Research from Safefood estimates that 55,056 children currently living in the State and 85,688 on the whole island will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity.

“This is the challenge and very real crisis that is facing us as a society. Children and adults are eating themselves into bad health and an early grave, and we need to know it the limited measures like a sugar tax are impacting in any positive way.

“We know that the total lifetime financial costs of childhood obesity in this State are estimated to be €4.6 billion, with the direct healthcare associated costs estimated at around €1.7 million.

“We also know that simple health improvements can make a massive difference. For instance, if body mass index (BMI) was reduced by as little as 1%, the lifetime cost of childhood overweight and obesity would be reduced by as much as €270 million. A BMI reduction of 5% would reduce the lifetime costs by €1.1 billion and it would have a significant impact on health and wellbeing.

“Reducing the levels of obesity makes financial sense and there are huge health benefits, but there seems to be little appetite by the government to tackle the issue.

“We saw this recently with the implementation of voluntary codes for junk food where there has not been a monitoring body set up or any technical guidance despite the codes being published over 7 months ago.

“We need to see ring-fenced funding to tackle obesity and we need to see, as a matter of urgency, a report into how ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’ is being progressed, including a breakdown of its successes, and equally important, what is not working.”