The Welsh Government has launched a consultation over plans to tackle obesity in Wales.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething yesterday unveiled the ‘Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales’ plan – which aims to combat what the Royal College of Paediatrics describes as the ‘greatest public health challenge facing Wales.’
The consultation has been developed across four key themes:
1. Leadership and Enabling Change
2. Healthy Environments
3. Healthy Settings
4. Healthy People
The plans include proposals to limit the use of advertising and promotion of unhealthy food in public places in order to support mothers who are overweight or obese during pregnancy and mandating calorie labelling for food purchased and eaten outside of the home.
The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe. In Wales, twenty seven percent of four-five year olds and sixty percent of adults are overweight.
The Welsh Government says the financial cost of obesity to the economy is considerable. Associated illnesses are projected to cost the Welsh NHS more than £465 million per year by 2050, with a cost to society and the economy of £2.4 billion .
Speaking about the launch of the consultation, Mr Gething said obesity is “the greatest public health challenge facing our generation” and urged people to take part in the consultation process.
“Too many people in Wales are overweight or obese,” said Mr Gething.
“Our high rates of overweight four to five year olds is a matter of national concern.
“This government is not prepared to let a poor diet or physical inactivity be defining features in the lives of our children and young people.
“We know that many of us want to eat healthier or do more exercise. However, fitting this into our busy lives can appear to be an overwhelming challenge.
“Creating an environment where it is normal and easy for us all to eat well and be physically active can make a significant difference and nudge us to change our daily routines.”
He added: “Tackling the root causes of why people become overweight is complex; it will require intervention at every level. We are under no illusion – there is no quick fix or easy solution to this problem. The proposals outlined are based on the best evidence available of what could work to turn the tide on obesity.
“This is an issue we simply cannot ignore, it is the greatest public health challenge facing our generation and I urge people to engage fully with this consultation.”
Being overweight increases the risk of developing major health conditions such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It is also a risk to people’s mental health leading to low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
The proposals set out in the consultation have a strong focus on prevention and are supported by research and international evidence from Public Health Wales into what can help the people to be a healthy weight
Responding to the publication, David Tuthill, Officer for Wales, for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said: “There is no quick fix when it comes to tackling obesity but if we are to create a healthier, more prosperous Wales, getting it right in childhood is an excellent place to start.
“We know overweight children are much more likely to become the next generation of overweight adults so this plan’s focus on children and young people, the early years and maternal health is very welcome.
“We are pleased to see support for overweight or obese pregnant women. It is important that the NHS practices what it preaches and develops food and nutrition standards that all NHS sites must adhere to.
“However, with over a quarter of children already overweight or obese by the time they start primary school, there is a risk they will be left behind unless access to services is addressed.
“The Welsh Government must review and implement a clinical obesity pathway quickly to prevent this from happening.”
You can take part / find out more in the consultation here.
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