Obesity Policy and Action Plan Progress Report published

10th February 2021 - Frank Feighan, TD

The Department of Health today published an Implementation Progress Report on “A Healthy Weight for Ireland”, Ireland’s national Obesity Policy and Action Plan (OPAP).

Originally launched in September 2016, the Obesity Policy and Action Plan was developed in recognition of the growing need for a co-ordinated policy response to the increasing problem of obesity in Ireland and the increasing burden placed on individuals and society. The Policy covers a 10-year period up to 2025 and aims to reverse obesity trends, prevent associated health complications and reduce overall burden for individuals, families, the health system, and the wider society and economy.

Today’s Report outlines progress made and actions taken across the 60 action areas of the OPAP, from September 2016 to the end of 2019. The actions described involve input from a wide range of stakeholders, which illustrates the multi-sectoral and cross-governmental nature of the Obesity Policy and Action Plan.

Significant achievements highlighted in the Progress Report are:

  • the introduction of a Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax, which commenced on 1 May 2018
  • the appointment of a National Clinical Lead for Obesity in the HSE, with work advanced on the development of a Model of Care for the management of overweight and obesity
  • the publication of new Healthy Eating Guidelines, Food Pyramid and supporting resources (recently complemented by the Healthy Eating Guidelines for 1-4 year olds)
  • the development of Nutrition Standards for schools

Recent statistics indicate that the levels of overweight and obesity have stabilised. The 2019 Healthy Ireland Survey found that 37% of those surveyed were overweight and 23% were obese, the same levels as in 2015.

The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative Report published in October 2020 found reduced levels of overweight and obesity in primary school children. However, the levels remain too high, and within the global figures there are areas of particular difficulty, including in socially-deprived sections of the population.

Publishing the report Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said:

“Obesity is a priority area for me and the government. The work to date including the publishing of the population healthy eating guidelines and school standards have set strong foundations for our work into the future. The Obesity Policy and Action Plan is scheduled to run until 2025 and while the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our work, our increased funding for the Healthy Ireland budget in 2021 demonstrates redoubled commitment to Healthy Ireland initiatives under the Obesity Policy and Action Plan.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD said:

“There is no single solution to addressing the causes and problems associated with overweight and obesity. Prevention is key with a focus on children and on reducing the inequalities that are evident. A healthy weight for all children is important because we know that the consequences of childhood overweight and obesity can be lifelong, affecting quality of life and health both in childhood and adulthood. While the recent downward trend evident for children in early primary school years is very positive, the difference in prevalence for those children attending designated disadvantaged schools is of concern. We recognise that there are socio-economic inequalities at play in the occurrence of obesity in Ireland and our programmes in planning for the next few years will place considerable emphasis in the most disadvantaged areas.”

An evaluation of the Obesity Policy and Action Plan is currently being carried out and is expected to be published in 2021. A mid-term review of the OPAP is also scheduled for 2021, to inform the approach for the remaining years of the Policy.

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