Tackling obesity more urgent than ever

By June Shannon (image credit World Obesity Federation) Policy News   |   27th Jul 2020

The Irish Government needs to take decisive action on measures such as restrictions on junk food advertising and building healthier environments.

The Irish Heart Foundation has today (Monday 27th July) urged the Irish Government to follow UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lead through tough new actions to tackle obesity.

The need for decisive action has been made more urgent than ever by evidence that people living with obesity are at increased risk of severe disease if they contract COVID-19.

The Irish Heart Foundation said there was clear evidence that measures to curb junk food marketing that feature in the UK’s new obesity strategy such as strict advertising restrictions on broadcast media and online, along with banning promotions such as buy-one-get-one-free, had a crucial role to play in combating our obesity crisis.

However, the Irish Heart Foundation said that the Irish Government should now look at going even further than their UK counterparts, through a range of additional actions such as mandatory reformulation of unhealthy food and beverages, an extension of the sugar-sweetened drink tax to items such as confectionery and an ambitious programme to create a healthier built environment.

" It’s clear that a lot more should also be done to protect adults, 61 per cent of whom are living with overweight or obesity.”

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy , The Irish Heart Foundation

“It’s clear that being overweight or obese puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. The more successful we are in limiting the impact of the virus the quicker we will be able to return to some sort of normality, so the case for decisive action on obesity has never been more compelling,” said Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey.

“While our primary focus has been on tackling childhood obesity – which the State’s own research estimates will result in the premature deaths of over 85,000 of this generation of children on the island of Ireland – it’s clear that a lot more should also be done to protect adults, 61 per cent of whom are living with overweight or obesity.”

Mr Macey said that in addition to reducing exposure to junk food marketing, reformulation and portion size control are among the measures that can have the biggest effect in reducing high levels of fat, sugar, and salt in people’s diets.

Meanwhile, UK research showed that the sugar sweetened drinks tax had resulted in a 22 per cent reduction in sugar purchased from these products, suggesting that new taxes could also further drive reformulation of unhealthy products.

“ The Programme for Government includes a range of important measures which should now be fast-tracked such as plans to implement a Public Health Obesity Act,"

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, The Irish Heart Foundation

“The Programme for Government includes a range of important measures which should now be fast-tracked such as plans to implement a Public Health Obesity Act that includes restrictions on promotion and advertising, the introduction of No Fry Zones and various initiatives promoting active travel that can help transform a toxic environment that is making sedentary lifestyles inevitable.”

Mr Macey added that there was strong public support for many important measures to tackle obesity according to polls carried out for the Irish Heart Foundation by Ipsos MRBI, which found that: 75 per cent of adults support a ban on price promotions encouraging people to choose larger sizes or multiple amounts of unhealthy food and drinks; 74 per cent support removing sweets and other unhealthy products from end of aisles and checkouts in supermarkets, and 71 per cent support a ban on the marketing and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks to under 18s.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see here.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

Please support our work

If you found this article helpful and would like to donate to the Irish Heart Foundation please see here.


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advertising advocacy coronavirus Covid-19 junk food marketing Obesity sugar sweetened drinks tax

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