Seanad debates

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

3:00 am

Photo of John CrownJohn Crown (Independent)

The Minister for Health has recently acknowledged the severity and implications of the obesity problem in our society. It is a problem we rate as being second to, and perhaps on a par with, tobacco as a cause of premature ill health. In addition to the well known increasing risk that obesity contributes to heart disease, strokes and diabetes, recent data have strongly suggested it not only has a role in the causation of cancer, but may also have a role in cancer behaving badly and relapsing more quickly. The Minister has correctly acknowledged the problem and acknowledged an attempt to correct it. The medium he is suggesting to use is an attempted behaviour modification using tax incentives. He has spoken specifically to the necessity of perhaps introducing some kind of sugar tax. I would be very supportive of the notion of attempting to tackle the problem. The problem is more profound than just sugar. It also occurs in the realm of fatty foods, dairy foods, etc. If we are to be honest in tackling in something that, in truth, no longer has an industrial base in a country which no longer produces its own sugar, we should perhaps honestly acknowledge the range of health related dietary problems that need to be addressed. I ask the Leader to bring these to the Minister's attention.

I am also troubled by something else. In the first instance we have a desperate shortage of dieticians. We have a three-year waiting list to be seen in the obesity clinic in Loughlinstown. If a decision is made that a patient needs life-saving bariatric surgery to reduce the capacity of his or her stomach, the waiting time for the operation is three years. From the time that a person's GP has acknowledged that he or she has a serious and life-threatening level of obesity, which cannot be tackled-----


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