Proposing of Motion 1: Obesity (Full Text)

Conference Motion 2006:

Proposer: Kieran McCarthy

Seconder: Yvonne Boyle

Motion 1: Obesity

Over half the population of Northern Ireland has a weight problem. Over one in five are recognised as obese.

Obesity in children is increasing at an alarming weight. Northern Ireland is faced with a health time-bomb with 1 in 5 boys and 1 in 3 girls predicted to be obese within 15-20 years if no drastic action is taken.

Conference calls for all unhealthy school meals and snacks in vending machines to be removed from schools and sport/leisure centres.

Proposer Kieran McCarthy said:

“Today, the people of Northern Ireland are living longer than any previous generation but despite these gains it is important that the issue of exercise and the importance of our eating and drinking habits is not neglected – especially given the fact that 6 out of the 7 most important factors for premature death are related to how we eat, drink and move.

“My concern today however is that Northern Ireland, and those responsible for governing it, are, in danger of doing just that, especially when it comes to the issue of obesity, an issue which, with no exaggeration is set to become a rising epidemic, undoing today the gains of the past and replacing it with a sick society for tomorrow.

“Whilst obesity is caused by a myriad of factors lifestyle is an essential part in its onset. Today, people take less exercise, have more sedentary lifestyles and generally live in environments that do not help in expending the excess energy and calories consumed and hence assist in the development of obesity.

“Currently, 15% of boys and 21% of girls are overweight by the age of 12 and 1 in 20 is obese. To continue in existing practices, it is predicted that by 2020 at least 1 in 3 adults, 1 in 5 boys and 1 in 3 girls will be suffering from obesity and increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and/or osteoarthritis.

“For children the long-term and short risks are of great concern for obesity in children carries with it even more far reaching consequences than obesity developed in adulthood. For example, overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults and there is concern that obesity in adults which developed in childhood may be of more harm than that occurring in adulthood. Psychologically too, overweight and obese children and adolescent may have lower self-esteem and are at an increasing risk of anxiety arising from poor self-image, teasing, bullying and social isolation.

“As a result of obesity, though a complex issue, being known to develop from physical inactivity and poor diet it is my belief that all people, and especially children must be given every opportunity and encouragement to reduce the onset of self-inflicted obesity and weight gain.. Therefore, whilst I support attempts at getting young people involved in sports and the education that takes place within classrooms on the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle, I am concerned that the lessons taught are being undone by the junk food that is advertised and sold within our school canteens, our leisure centre restaurants and the vending machines which are placed in around such sites.

Therefore, in recognising that obesity is caused through an imbalance between the energy or calories consumed and those burnt off, and that the negative health effects of ‘junk food’ advertised and sold within our schools and leisure centres which accessed daily by the children and young people who are fed continuously conflicting messages, conference calls for all unhealthy school meals and snacks in vending machines to be removed from schools and sport/leisure centres.”

In seconding the motion Yvonne Boyle stated:

“I recognise that individuals have a right to live their lives as they so wish, so long as it does not impact on other people but obesity is thought to cause 450 deaths each year – that is 4000 years of lost life. Obesity is also estimated to result in 260’000 lost working days every year, costing an already frail economy half a million pounds. Obesity therefore does concern and impact upon the well-being of others. Recognising the dangers open to children, and adults, of obesity I agree with Kieran that adults do have a role to play in protecting children and whilst free to live lives as they please, adults through healthy living can influence children around them. I support and therefore second this motion.”

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