26 Feb 2009
IPH Chief Executive, Dr Jane Wilde gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee inquiry into obesity.
Dr Wilde recommended the following:
- Supporting the Department of Health’s strategic approach based on an understanding of the nature and complexity of obesity.
- Urgent and short term action to coordinate current activities and ensure focus on the most vulnerable.
- Exploring new forms and incentives to promote cross departmental work.
Setting intermediate outcomes and targets
- Building stronger links between research, policy and practice, for example asking the Health Committee to set up a round table of researchers and policy makers
- Working systematically and transparently to identify key areas for cooperation with UK, Ireland and Europe
Drawing from IPH work and other research, Dr Wilde briefed the Health Committee on the extent and impact of obesity, reasons for rising levels of obesity and the need for a stronger strategic response. She highlighted the importance of cross government action, the responsibilities of those beyond the health sector and the need for stronger evidence-informed policy and practice.
Discussing the extent and impact of obesity, Dr Wilde noted that obesity is an important risk factor for many health conditions from cancer and heart disease to diabetes. Reference was made to Making diabetes count – what does the future hold? This IPH report predicted that between 2005 to 2015 in Northern Ireland there will be a 26% increase in the number of people with Type 2 diabetes. So if current trends continue an estimated 84,226 in Northern Ireland and 193,944 in the Republic of Ireland will have adult diabetes by 2015, a total of 278,170 people across the island.
Dr Wilde emphasised most actions with the potential to prevent obesity fall outside the health sector remit. In recognising the need for a cross government and wider societal response, she recommended that the Health Committee act as an advocate with other Assembly Committees in how they can help tackle obesity.
Relevant IPH resources
Access Making diabetes count – what does the future hold?
Access Tackling food poverty: lessons from the Decent Food for All intervention