The Malta Independent 21 October 2019, Monday

Government committed to tackle obesity with solid measures

Malta Independent Friday, 9 May 2014, 15:20 Last update: about 6 years ago

Government recognises that obesity is a major public health concern in Malta and is committed to address this vigorously. This was stated by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr. Chris Fearne and Parliamentary Secretary for the Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Dr. Justyne Caruana during this year’s National Nutrition Conference held at Qawra.

In his address, Mr Fearne announced that together with the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport, Research and Innovation, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health will soon be issuing a call for gyms across the island to participate in an initiative to provide subsidised gym membership for overweight individuals. This will be done as part of a holistic program for individuals to achieve weight control. Moreover, together with the Ministry for Education, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health is also looking at improving access to healthy diets for school children.

Mr Fearne remarked that in Europe, rates of obesity and overweight adults have increased in the last 20 years. Of greater concern, is the rate of childhood obesity in Europe whereby 1 in every 5 is overweight or obese. This translates in a total of 14 million children in Europe. In Malta, the rate of childhood obesity has increased to 1 in every 4 children. If this problem persists, the greatest health problems will be seen in the next generation of adults as the present cohort of children passes through to adulthood. If this trend continues, rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, endocrine disorders and other obesity related conditions will be expected to increase.

The burden resulting from obesity in Europe has been estimated to reach 33 billion euro per year. Mr. Fearne stated that the problem of obesity is similarly putting a massive strain on the country’s economy where it has been estimated that nationally obesity is causing an annual expenditure of over 20 million euro to our health care system. The projected national health care cost is expected to increase to 35 million euro per year by the year 2020, if no change in the proportion of overweight and obese individuals in the population takes place.

Mr Fearne concluded that Government is taking this situation very seriously and is fully committed to act now in the interest of present and future generations.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing Dr Justyne Caruana added that her attendance not just symbolic but a commitment to a cause that is close to their heart. “Let’s face it, we are all in search of happiness and the quality of life of a population is an important concern, and is measured by many social and economic factors, one of which being nutritional standards”, Justyne Caruana stated. Parliamentary Secretary, Justyne Caruana stated that the Government wants to lead by example, and as a matter of fact, two consultative documents have been launched. Speaking about the documents, she added that one document relates to the residential services for persons with disability, while the other relates to standards in residential homes for older persons. She mentioned that both of these documents are being discussed and under public consultation, in order to create standards from people and for the people.

“This brings me to another issue, we should guarantee that the assessment and monitoring of the nutritional needs of the elderly and persons with disability are taking place regularly both in the community and in residential homes.” We are ensuring to keep improving food choices for the elderly, as we have done at St Vincent de Paul Residence with the new visually-friendly food menu. Regular assesment and Monitoring of the dietrary needs of both persons with disability and the elderly is crucial, that is why we need to set up a National Nutritional Screening programme for Elderly Persons” the Parliamentary Secretary continued.

Dr Caruana expressed her appreciation towards one of the organisers of the National Nutrition Conference, Mr. Geoffrey Axiak, who was a member in the working group for implementing the St Vincent de Paul visual menu. She also thanked the St. Vincent de Paul administration, particularly Dr. Josianne Cutajar for helping in the such project. The Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing continued by mentioning the Wheelchair Basketball event with MEP candidates, organised by her Parliamentary Secretariat in collaboration with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport. She mentioned that the Scope of such events is not only to promote the abilities of persons with disabilities but also to promote phyisical activities amongst them.

The Parliamentary Secretary then concluded that they will be taking suggestions and out outcomes highlighted in the conference on board.

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