HSE welcomes new national obesity policy and action plan,

Thursday, 22nd September 2016

Minister for Health, Simon Harris today, Thursday 22nd September 2016, launched the Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action plan 2016 – 2025. The HSE welcomes the policy and action plan which sets out a clear roadmap for a population-wide response to halt the rising levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland. 

“The launch of the Healthy Weight for Ireland policy and action plan provides a focus to the work of a wide range of organisations across the country, including the health services, to create a healthier Ireland and to address the challenge of growing overweight and obesity levels among children and adults. The HSE’s Healthy Eating and Active Living programme will provide the leadership, strategic direction and coordination required to effectively deliver on our commitments in the action plan”,  said Dr. Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director Health and Wellbeing.

Under the Healthy Ireland Framework, the HSE established a number of national policy priority programmes, to ensure key policies and strategies are implemented. One such programme, the Healthy Eating and Active Living programme, has responsibility from a health services perspective, to implement the Healthy Weight for Ireland policy and action plan.

“One in every two people over 50 have at least one chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer or depression in Ireland today.  Our high levels of overweight and obesity are one of the main causes of these diseases.  With six out of ten adults, and one in four children in Ireland overweight and obese, we all have a role to play. This includes schools, retailers, the food industry, communities, workplaces, and Government departments. In the health services we play a vital role in helping our patients, service users, staff and the population as a whole, to maintain a healthy weight, and to help those who are overweight or obese, to reduce their weight. Eating a healthier diet and being active more regularly are proven ways to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone”, said Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Lead for the Healthy Eating and Active Living programme. 


Obesity in Ireland is fast becoming the most significant threat to our health. Influenced by marketing and advertising, Irish people are eating bigger portions of foods which are high in fat and sugar, and which are both easily accessible and affordable, while at the same time not getting enough physical activity.  It is widely acknowledged that the key to halting and reversing growing obesity levels is a population-wide approach to reduce calorie intake and increase physical activity. 


Research shows that 60% of chronic diseases can be prevented by making changes in four key lifestyle behaviours – stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, increase physical activity and eat more fruit and vegetables. The HSE has more than 30 million contacts a year with people, 14 million of which take place in general practice and primary care. “These contacts provide an opportunity for healthcare staff to engage with patients and service users to influence their choices and behaviours around diet and physical activity. The HSE will be training staff across our health services, in hospitals, primary care and general practice, to give them the skills and knowledge to discuss lifestyle changes, and to provide advice and support to service users on diet and physical activity, smoking, and alcohol. We will also provide tools and resources to support people to make healthier lifestyle choices” continued Sarah O’Brien. 


Children between the ages of 7 to 18 years who are overweight or obese, are five times more likely to be overweight and obese as adults.  A history of obesity as a child increases the risk of developing heart disease, even if as an adult, their weight is a healthy weight.  As children are most influenced by the people closest to them – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and schools - the HSE, over the next 3 years, will provide information and support for parents to establish healthy lifestyles for their families. We will:

  • increase the numbers of Triple P Healthy Lifestyle programmes provided across the country;
  • increase the numbers of community-based cooking programmes; and
  • increase the numbers of pre-school services, primary and post-primary schools involved in programmes such as Smart Start, Health Promoting Schools and Active Schools initiatives. 


Evidence shows that for the majority of adults who need to lose weight, achieving and maintaining a weight loss of 10% of their current weight will significantly reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases.  Clinical treatment services for children and adults who are obese are limited to public weight management clinics in Loughlinstown Hospital and Galway University Hospital, and the W82Go programme for children in Temple Street Hospital. Subject to Government funding, the HSE will appoint a Clinical Lead to coordinate and drive the development of evidence based, effective weight management and treatment services for children and adults and integrate them across primary care and hospital services.


To find out how and where you can get active, visit www.getirelandactive.ie

Last updated on: 22 / 09 / 2016