Thursday, 18 April 2019

Questions (156, 182)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

156. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the recommendation of the healthy weight for children (zero-six years) framework calling for obesity impact assessments for new planning developments that impact children and their families; if he will consider same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18308/19]

View answer

Denise Mitchell

Question:

182. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Health the estimated funding needed to implement the HSE healthy weight for children (zero-six) framework; the funding that has been made available for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18170/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 182 together.

A Healthy Weight for Ireland’, the Government’s Obesity Policy and Action Plan (OPAP), was approved by Government in 2016 and launched in September 2016 under the auspices of the Healthy Ireland agenda.

The OPAP covers a ten 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. Indeed it must be emphasised that every sector of our society has a role in reducing the burden of obesity and the OPAP clearly acknowledges this.

The OPAP policy prescribed 'Ten Steps Forward' that would be taken to prevent overweight and obesity. A new Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group was established in October 2017 and a progress report on each recommendation in the OPAP is currently being finalised under the aegis of the Oversight Group.

The HSE is responsible for the implementation of a number of actions in the OPAP, including actions relating to the prevention and management of overweight and obesity in both children and adults.

Funding for actions led by the HSE is dealt with as part of the annual estimates and service planning process.

The recommendation referred to by the Deputy calling for obesity impact assessments for new planning developments that impact on children and their families is aligned by the Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group with Step 2 of the Obesity Policy Action Plan 'Regulate for a healthier environment'. One of the Actions under this Step is to "Develop guidelines and support material for those working in developing the built environment for urban development and planning in relation to reducing the obesogenic environment". The OPAP recognised that changing the obesogenic environment is a critical factor underpinning the success of maintaining the population at a healthy weight. The prevention approach aims to gradually change Ireland's food environment to one that facilitates consumption of healthier food and drinks and fosters active lifestyles. The OPAP acknowledged that food and retail outlets are more widely available now than ever before and that this becomes important as children have discretionary income and may not follow the healthy eating guidelines. It therefore declared that it is important that the health input into the local area planning process is consistent and evidence based.

This area is being progressed through engagement with other Government Departments to support the work of stakeholders involved in planning and developing the built environment.

In line with Actions 31 of the National Physical Activity Plan and 2.1 of the OPAP, which commit to developing guidelines and support materials for those working in developing the built environment in order to promote the importance of physical activity and reduce the obesogenic environment, a Stakeholder Forum was held on 21 November last.

The event was planned in partnership, with substantial input from three Government Departments, (Health; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Housing, Planning and Local Government). Following on from this Forum, a working group made up of representatives of all three departments was convened to consider the outputs of the stakeholder forum and related recommendations, including the ones aligned with the recommendation referred to by the Deputy.

Finally, the question of legislation around planning matters for the issue is ultimately a matter for my colleague the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I understand that he has addressed the position on this in his reply to Parliamentary Question 34831/17. For convenience a link to this question is here.