‘We must redouble efforts to tackle obesity’

Date published: 27 July 2020

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.” 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The new obesity strategy can be found on the UK Government website.
  2. The Department of Health NI obesity prevention framework, A Fitter Future for All can be found on the DoH website.
  3. Obesity occurs when an individual takes in more energy through food and drink than they use up through natural bodily processes and physical activity.
  4. Obesity is usually measured by Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a ratio of a person’s height and weight. In adults having a BMI of 25-30 is classified as being overweight and having a BMI of 30 or more is classified as obese. Waist measurement is a simple alternative measure which everyone can use to identify if they may be at increased risk of obesity related health problems. A waist size of 37 inches or more in men, and 32 inches or more in women puts you at increased risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
  5. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email: pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  6. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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