Ireland is heading down the same unfortunate road as the United States when it comes to adult obesity. That's the warning coming from Doctor Muireann Cullen from the Irish Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF).
Doctor Cullen warned this week that the US’s major obesity problem started about 30 years ago and that Ireland is quickly catching up.
'Two out of three adults in Ireland are either overweight or obese and we can see the problem in our children all the way back to preschool,' Doctor Cullen said.
'The obesity problem in the US is absolutely shocking and Ireland is heading down the same road at a fierce pace. We need to put the brakes on and go into reverse.'
Doctor Cullen reportedly said that Irish people have lost the balance between diet and exercise and need to restore it.
'We know from a very young age that we should be washing our teeth twice a day. Why isn’t the same message getting out in relation to healthy eating and physical activity,' she asked.
Speaking at the NHF-hosted conference in Dublin this week Doctor Cullen emphasized the need for a holistic approach from all sections of society to work together to tackle the issue.
'Clear goals need to be set, aimed for and achieved,' she added.
Meanwhile the Irish Department of Health has created the new position of 'director of health and well being' and the NHF is hoping to work with the appointed director to identify key priorities in tackling obesity and changing contributing behaviour.
'The issue has to be government-led because there has to be a key leader but we all have a role in supporting that and leading ourselves so the message is filtering down to communities and individuals,' said Doctor Cullen.
The conference keynote speaker was Robin Schepper who has worked as executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. Schepper said Ireland’s obesity epidemic would take years to solve.
One of the most immediate strategies is for Ireland to invest in ways of making the healthy choice the easy choice, she said.
According to the Irish Examiner Schepper said government spending on playgrounds, sidewalks and bike paths would be offset by significant healthcare savings resulting from a reduction in the number of people with lifestyle-related diseases.
Schepper added the first lady Michelle Obama's advocacy has made a 'huge impact' on the childhood obesity problem in America.