Dr Rosemary Geller explained that with more than one in ten adult Islanders now classed as obese, this was the cost to the Health Service for treatment and to employers for related staff absence from work. More worrying still for the future, she added, was the fact that 12 per cent of Island five-year-olds were now obese. Dr Geller explained that investing in prevention now would save demand on the health services in the future. Central to the new campaign will be a drive to get Islanders up off the sofa and involved in more active and healthy pursuits. Dr Geller said: ‘Obesity is the major threat to public health in the 21st century. I challenge the post-war mantra of ”convenience”, removing effort from our lives. I fear that very soon we will see a new epitaph: “He died from a life of convenience”. ‘I urge Islanders to build activity into their everyday lives, to walk or cycle instead of taking the car, use the stairs instead of the lift, avoid processed foods which can be high in fat and sugar and enjoy fabulous fresh Jersey fish, fruit and vegetables.’ Dr Geller made the announcement just days after it was revealed that free weight-loss surgery was to be made available through the Health department for Islanders weighing 20 stone and more. Money has been made available for 20 people to have the surgery each year for he next three years. The surgery is a last-ditch solution treating people whose weight is a very serious risk to their health. Andrew Heaven, the head of health promotion in Dr Geller’s department, said: ‘Co-ordinated action is required in order to stop the rise in obesity. The Public Health department is taking the lead by developing a Health for Life strategy, involving other States departments, voluntary groups and the private sector, which aims to reduce the number of people who are obese in Jersey. ‘Action will focus on increasing the amounts of daily activity and improving people’s diets.’ He added: ‘Get active, get moving – that is the message. Up to 35,000 Islanders do not exercise enough for there to be any benefit to their health. Experts recommend that we exercise half an hour a day, five days a week. The most successful initiatives in this area show that exercise is more likely to be taken if it becomes part of the daily routine, for example, walking to work.’ The campaign, the first parts of which are expected to be launched within weeks, will also focus on encouraging employers to promote exercise among their workforce. It will also seek to extend opportunities for children to exercise in schools Mr Heaven said that educating Islanders to eat more fruit an vegetables would also be key to a healthier lifestyle. ‘Locally, schemes for fruit in primary schools have been shown to improve the number of portions eaten by schoolchildren,’ he added. ‘Improving the diet of adults will require greater emphasis on joint action between food producers, manufacturers and retailers, while at the same time ensuring that educational messages about what makes up a balanced diet are constantly available.’
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