Two-thirds of adults 'overweight'
Almost two thirds of adults in Northern Ireland now have a weight problem, the Health Minister has warned.
Launching a new 10-year strategy to tackle the region's expanding waistline, Edwin Poots stressed that obesity can lead to serious illnesses and can limit life expectancy by nine years.
The minister said 36% of adults are deemed overweight and a further 23% obese. He said almost one in 10 (8%) of children aged two to 15 were obese.
"These figures demonstrate the scale of the problem and the enormous challenge we are facing," he said.
Mr Poots said he would be investing £7 million in the first three years of the A Fitter Future for All strategy, which will seek to promote healthier eating and lifestyles.
"We need to face the issue of obesity head on," said the minister. "It's an issue that will require commitment and action from across all sectors, including other Government departments and agencies. It is therefore my intention to invest more than £7 million towards tackling the problem of obesity over the next three years."
He added: "The new framework sets challenging targets. To date we have focussed on simply trying to stop the rise in the levels of obesity, however under A Fitter Future For All we want to reduce the level of obesity by 4% and overweight and obesity by 3% among adults. This means changing for better the lives of around 60,000 people.
"This will require changes in our lifestyles and behaviours. Most importantly, individuals need to be given the opportunity to make decisions that will benefit their own health and well-being."
The proposed framework proposes new measures aimed at: increasing levels of breastfeeding; increasing knowledge and skills about food and its preparation; encouraging participation in physical activity; promoting walking and cycling; making sure how people live and where they live encourages and supports healthy eating and physical activity; encouraging and supporting more community involvement with these issues.
The minister added: "Evidence shows that it is more likely that an obese child will become an obese adult. This in turn will lead to a greater strain on our health and social care services, with more people requiring treatment and specialist care for obesity-related illnesses."