NI’s Public Health Authority.
As Northern Ireland's adults find 61% of themselves overweight or obese, the Public Health Authority is launching a new 10-year crackdown to offer A Fitter Future For All.
4th January 2013
From Thursday this week, Northern Ireland’s Public Health Authority will be focusing their energies on the growing weight issues faced by the population.
Recent analysis shows that 61% of Northern Ireland’s adults are now overweight or obese. Furthermore, a third of boys and one quarter of girls under 12 weigh more than they should to be considered healthy. The chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, says this should be considered one of the biggest public health challenges that NI currently faces.
A central issue seems to be that of education and awareness; interestingly, of the 61% surveyed that were considered overweight, nearly half thought they weren’t overweight or could even consider their weight to be ‘light’. To combat this, the PHA is plumping for a two-pronged public education approach; adults will first be asked to consider how their weight will affect their health and secondly, offered practical advice on reducing it. A new website, Choose To Live Better will support this initiative.
Behind the scenes, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have compiled a framework aimed at addressing these issues, focusing on the inter-connectivity of public health issues that lead to an ‘obesogenic’ environment (in other words, the things around us that cause obesity to arise, be it cultural attitudes, food provision, medical issues or something else.). The framework notes that this is highly important to consider as, 20-30 years ago, such prevalence of obesity just wasn’t present in NI society.
The Framework states they will be aiming for highlighting the positives of losing weight, rather than the negatives of being overweight in order to make weight loss seem “fun, positive and appealing”. They aim to do this through a whopping 57 short-term goals across the next 3 years; such as promoting a more effective sharing of resources between councils and education providers; Home Economics remaining compulsory for Key Stage 3 pupils; encouragement of breastfeeding; alcohol labels to specify calorific content; nationwide employee support to become more active; and a focus on under-represented groups to ensure they too strive for the recommended level of activity.
Will this translate into more NI health care jobs for health-care workers? It certainly seems possible. For those of you working in NI health care and support work, good luck in supporting your service users to shed the pounds!