Thursday, 1 April 2021
Department of Health
304. To ask the Minister for Health the preparatory work under way in his Department on a public health (obesity) Bill as per the programme for Government; the stakeholders that have been and are being consulted in relation to same to date; the timeline for the development of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17684/21]
The Programme for Government “Our Shared Future” published in June 2020 contained a commitment to “Work with key stakeholders to introduce a Public Health Obesity Act, including examining restrictions on promotion and advertising aimed at children”.
The policy instrument for obesity in Ireland is “A Healthy Weight for Ireland’, the Obesity Policy and Action Plan (OPAP), which was launched in September 2016 as part of the Healthy Ireland Framework. The OPAP covers a 10-year period up to 2025 and aims to reverse obesity trends, prevent health complications and reduce the overall burden for individuals, families, the health system, and the wider society and economy. The OPAP does not provide for the introduction of a Public Health Obesity Act. However, the Plan does provide for a mid-term review to be carried out, and this will take place in 2021. This will lead to a refreshed and updated Plan with a revised set of actions for the remaining lifetime of the OPAP. This review provides the opportunity to consider developments and new evidence since the publication of the OPAP and allow appropriate consideration and stakeholder engagement on a range of aspects, including proposed legislation to support our national approach to tackling obesity.
There are a number of elements which will inform the mid-term review of the Obesity Policy and Action Plan. An Implementation Progress Report on the actions within the Plan was published in February 2021. A Strategic Action Plan for the wider Healthy Ireland Framework, covering the years 2021-2025 is expected to be published in the coming weeks. An evaluation of the OPAP is also being carried out by the Health Research Board Centre for Health and Diet Research, University College Cork. This process will include the assessment of relevant experts, and it is expected that this will be completed in the second quarter of 2021. A strong evidence base will be required for any new legislative measures, and the review of the OPAP will build on the work already underway to identify gaps in the implementation of the Plan, including where actions need to be progressed, whether by legislative or other means, and where further research is required.
Given the multi-faceted nature of the obesity crisis, a high level of interdepartmental collaboration will be required to implement measures aimed at tackling obesity and in the preparation and implementation of legislation, and as envisaged in the Programme for Government, extensive stakeholder consultation would of course be necessary. However, the work which Healthy Ireland has undertaken over the years in identifying and developing relationships with stakeholders, and most recently through the development of the Strategic Action Plan, provide a strong basis upon which to work with stakeholders to examine the issues and implications involved.