I sometimes think that I am the only person in Ireland who is concerned about the inequalities in outcomes in obesity in Ireland. I decided, consequently, to share my concern with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.
You might ask why should he be bothered. The reason is firstly that he recognises the importance of the health inequalities in the area of obesity and the importance of issues in the area of child obesity which disproportionately impacts those from lower socioeconomic position. So, it’s a matter of social justice.
But there is a second reason why he needs to care. The Department of Health issued the “Healthy Weight for Ireland” policy in Sep 2016 (see https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c778a9-a-healthy-weight-for-ireland-obesity-policy-and-action-plan-2016-202/ . A laudable five year target was set in this 2016-2025 policy of a “reduction in the gap in obesity levels between the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups by 10%”. So, I asked the Minister what is the current metric in Ireland against this ambitious target? I’m sure that he is as interested as I am in this information but I am yet (three weeks after asking the question) to hear his response.
Apart from the fact that the government is on the hook to reduce inequalities, there are other fundamental reasons why the government needs to be doing more to and why we should be concerned. Firstly, people from lowersocioeconomic position who experience obesity have a shorter and less healthy life than those from better-off areas. They also experience economic penalties owing to their physical condition. These are also matters of social justice which need to be considered.
A recently issued piece of UK research also pointed out the incontrovertible link between lower socioeconomic position, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Obesity which needs to be a matter of grave concern to any Minister for Health https://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2020/08/26/jech-2020-213817
I’m waiting patiently for an answer from the Minister, but I am fully accepting that it might never come. I say this because it’s easy to roll-out the usual (and reasonable?) counter that the priority is now Covid-19, etc. But this is no excuse because the problem of inequalities in obesity continue to get worse. I am confident in my view that this matter will become (perhaps in three year’s time and just before the next election?) of prime importance in time to come and will not, in the time-honoured Irish tradition, be “kicked down the road”.