A MAJOR new public information campaign to tackle overweight and obesity has been launched by the Public Health Agency.
The campaign is taking two main approaches: firstly, helping people to identify whether they are inching towards bad health by being overweight or obese, and secondly, offering advice on small steps that they can take to help reduce their waist size.
A website – www.choosetolivebetter.com – has also been developed to support the campaign by providing helpful tips and practical advice on how people can measure their waist and reduce their weight.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health with the PHA, said: “More than one in two adults in Northern Ireland are now overweight or obese, but many people don’t even realise that they fall into this category and are putting their health at risk.
“The focus of the PHA is to promote health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities in health, and that is why we are mounting this major new initiative. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
“We want people to think about whether they are inching towards poor health and to take positive action to address it if they are.
“This campaign aims to help people recognise when they are overweight or obese, explain the health effects, and encourage those who need to, to make small, realistic lifestyle changes that will help them maintain a healthy weight.
“Small changes are easier to make and can add up to make a big difference. For example, having smaller portions, swapping to healthier options, saying ‘no thanks’ to seconds or the children’s leftovers, and going for a walk instead of watching TV. Every small step will help people keep a healthy weight and improve their health.
“Public information is just one element in tackling obesity. The PHA also works with a wide range of organisations across Northern Ireland to offer other programmes to make it easier for people to be active and choose healthier options.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Obesity is a modern lifestyle epidemic that is threatening our health and wellbeing, and tackling the problem is one of the biggest public health challenges we face in Northern Ireland.
“Last year we launched ‘A Fitter Future for All’, Northern Ireland’s cross-Departmental framework for preventing and addressing overweight and obesity. The launch of this campaign is a key step in delivering on this strategy and ensuring we engage with the public to empower them to make real and lasting positive changes to their lifestyle and ultimately their health.
“However, there are no quick fixes and, in order to be effective, the campaign must be taken forward alongside the other recommendations in A Fitter Future for All. Every small step in the right direction will have long-term benefits in improving health and wellbeing.”
Professor Ian Young, Chair of the Regional Steering Group on Obesity Prevention, and Professor of Medicine and Director of The Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University, added: “Obesity is a major issue in Northern Ireland, so this campaign is very timely to help empower people to make positive changes that will enable them lose weight.
“A range of organisations have shared ideas and collaborated to develop this campaign, and hopefully it will help encourage people to choose to live better by adapting their diets and activity.”
While 61% of adults in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, the Northern Ireland Health Survey shows that perception of personal weight status is often wrong – 43% of those assessed as overweight felt their weight was about right or too light.
People will be encouraged to measure their waist and if it’s more, to think about the impact their lifestyle choices could be having on their health.
The campaign will initially run until the end of March this year.