Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne said that obesity will be one of the health priorities for Malta’s EU Presidency. Dr. Fearne was addressing a roundtable discussion in Brussels on obesity organised by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) together with a group of interested stakeholders and political champions to share information and discuss collaboration on joint projects and to agree on how to raise the profile of obesity on the European political agenda.
Dr. Fearne, who was invited to participate in this Conference by Maltese MEP Alfred Sant, said one of the things to do here will be to ask for a mid-term review on what has been done as part of the 2014-2020 strategy on Child obesity launched by the Greek presidency back in 2014. He said that the diagnosis of obesity is still screened by other conditions like diabetes and depression, but that it needs to be considered on its own, independently of these problems, though it contributes to them and they to it. Dr. Fearne pointed at the need to recognise obesity as a disease and establish a way to treat it. He also called for more funding to tackle the issue.
Dr. Sant said that economic development in Europe has led to a high standard of living, bringing benefits we all enjoy. It has also had major negative side effects. Among which is obesity. Yet this is also a major concern in societies, including European, where poverty or risk of poverty is rife. Obesity does not hit the affluent only, it also hits the poor. It is also a major concern in Malta.
‘Beyond getting the obesity problem to the top of national agendas, our aim should also be to focus on making the fight against it a priority in the policy making of the European Union. Obesity needs to be tackled from all angles. Not least the promotional strategies followed by companies to sell fast food. Not least the way children are fed in schools and at home. Not least the limited strategies available to normal citizens, living in isolated conditions, to deal with depression. Least of all can one ignore the prevalence of obesity among people living in low socioeconomic conditions. The European Commission has confirmed that in Europe, there is a significant correlation between obesity and people in lower socioeconomic groups, particularly women and children.’ Dr. Sant said.
Dr. Sant said the challenge we face is not just professional, or social, or political, or even economic. It's a complex challenge that needs to be faced via a multidimensional, integrated approach that brings together, doctors, psychologists, sociologists, health planners, economists and marketeers, among others -- at both the national and European levels. Politicians, both the national and European levels, must be on board, not simply consider the issue does not win votes, he said.
Other guests included Mr. Darren Azzopardi, Ministry for Family and Social Solidarity, Joao Breda Programme Manager Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, WHO, Carlos Oliviera from the Portuguese obese patients association, Dr Dominique Durrer from the EASO Patient Council, Irish MEP Mcguinness and Portuguese MEP Zorrinho.