The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

Maltese roads are not safe enough for active mobility – Dr George Debono

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 16 December 2015, 14:07 Last update: about 5 years ago

Maltese roads are not safe for active mobility, Dr George Debono, lead author of the report called "The Environmental Dimension of Malta's ill-health and Action to Prevent Obesity, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Dementia.

The independent think-thank The Today Public Policy Institute published the report today.

The report was described as a passionate plea for Maltese to incorporate healthy living into their everyday lives.

The Lead author on the report is Dr George Debono, Director General of the Today Public Policy Institute Martin Scicluna said. "The statistics show that, when it comes to healthy lifestyles and physical exercise, the Maltese are one of the most obese, laziest and most car-dependent nations on the planet. If nothing is done by government and health authorities to encourage a healthy physical life-style on a nationwide basis, this will cast a long shadow over Malta's further future health as well as raising future health costs".

There seems to be little appreciation of the importance and economic benefit of maintaining good health by appropriate prevention lifestyle measures aimed at reducing non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Alife-long healthy lifestyle reduces the likelihood of the aged becoming a burden on society.

In a brief overview of the costs of ill-health, Dr Scicluna explained, the report highlights malta's health costs for diabetes, which were estimated at €65 million annually. The cost of obesity was estimated at €19.5 million in 2008 and likely to rise to between €27 million and €35 million by 2020 if no action is taken.

The costs of dementia care, he said, are estimated to be between €63 million and €95 million annually. Appropriate life-style changes could reduce dementia costs by up to €30 million annually he said.

The report underlines that exercise is the thread that unites most preventative measures, Dr Scicluna said.

Dr Debono explained that most of the time, "The reason given for people not cycling to work is because it is dangerous. This is due to heavy traffic, narrower pavements and roads are less welcoming for cyclists. There are no trees and benches on the pavements, making them unwelcoming for pedestrians. Children don't play outside any more".

One suggestion Dr Debono made would see the introduction of shared spaces, and as an example, he mentioned Merchant Street. "The road has been paved and theoretically cars would be able to share the road with pedestrians. Congested roads could turn into shared space, he said, where drivers and pedestrians would have equal access to the road and would act and behave on an equal basis". He said that such a thing could be observed in certain major London roads.

"Speed on shared space roads is slower, but flows more smoothly", he said.

He mentioned that the speed limit in residential zones in Malta is too high, and that pavement size is ever decreasing in order to make more parking spaces.

The report seeks to promote a healthier lifestyle in order to combat obesity and diabetes. It also deals with dementia. "If you are destined to get dementia, then you will get it, however the aim of the game is to postpone the onset of dementia".

"If you live a mentally and physically active life, eat healthily and engage yourself mentally and socially, you will postpone the onset of dementia," he said.

He also turned to vascular dementia, and said that this could be prevented through healthier lifestyle measures. 


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