I’m not sure the Minister’s new obesity strategy will deliver the outcomes required or support those who need to improve their diet and lifestyle so as not to become overweight or obese. The reason I say this is that the strategy is not hands on enough, it’s not investing in people to help people who are over weight.
Many people remark at how ‘lucky’ I am not to ‘struggle’ with my weight. I am lucky in the sense that I was brought up on good home cooked meals, I learned about nutrition and I was taught by my mother how to cook for myself at an early age.
I’m also lucky because I understand (and accept) that weight is more or less a formula between food/calories in and food/calories burned off in the course of my day and that food/calories not burned off is stored therefore adds to my weight. I also understand that eating food is not just about weight but about feeding my body to keep it and me healthy and give me energy to go about my day’s work. I understand that fresh food is better for me than processed foods. Going to restaurants or having pizza on a Saturday night is a treat and I generally apply the theory of everything in moderation.
If I were the Minister I would have liaised with the Minister for Education and increased the time for Social Personal and Health Education in schools from it’s current 30 minutes per week to 60/90 minutes per week and I would have introduced and funded monthly cookery classes in all schools from Junior Infants up. I would have recruited and funded more nutritionists and dieticians. I would have allocated funding to local Family and Resource Centres for cookery courses that would include teaching basic nutrition. I would have allocated funding to local authorities for allotments. I would have allocated more funding to our community games, our local sports clubs and other local groups that work with communities to improve our understanding of food, nutrition and cooking. Basically I would have invested in people to help those who ‘struggle’ with their weight.
Evidence on how effective such person-to-person support is can be found in the outcome of Northside Partnership’s Preparing for Life Programme. This programme supported mother’s to be from conception up until their child went to school and included a home visiting programme. The evaluation showed that, in addition to improved cognitive understanding and social behaviours and a reduction in visits to hospitals, ‘the children whose parents received the intervention were also less likely to be overweight (23% compared to 41%)’