Global report on obesity paints a grim picture – a new report published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that Israel is among the developed countries with the highest number of obese children.
According to the report, one of every four five to seven-year olds in the Jewish state suffers from excess weight. Among adults, who grew up before fast food chains opened shop at every street corner, the rates were significantly lower, with Israel ranking 22nd out of 33 participating countries.
The Health Ministry has come up with different ways of action to tackle the phenomenon, and is slated to present the full program to the government in the near future.
Meanwhile, the ministry is taking several measures to restrict the amount of trans fat allowed in processed foods, and to limit the airing of fast food commercials during the children watch TV. The ministry will also pursue additional measures to encourage physical activity among children.
WHO global initiativeThe idea to restrict fast food advertisements is part of a program initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO). An organization's discussion group, which included 16 states from western Europe and Israel, debated the negative affects of foods and beverages rich in energy, which provide a poor source of nutrition and are often full of fat, sugar or sodium.
After lengthy debates, the discussion group published a first-of-its-kind code that outlines a number of measures meant to protect children from the affects of commercials that advertise these types of products.
The code determines that the commercials should not be allowed to air during children's peak TV viewing hours, and in programs that mainly cater to young audiences.
The code also recommends forbidding food chains to hand out free gifts that promote these food products, as well as forbid the use of celebrities and animated characters in advertisement materials.
In Israel, the Ministry of Health plans to implement the initiative with the cooperation of the food industry, and will attempt to reach a mutual agreement between the parties. If the negotiations fail, the ministry will consider implementing legislation to regulate the issue officially.
Quarter of Israeli children obeseThe report findings ranked Israel 11 out of 33 countries in children obesity, with 26% of children suffering from overweight.
While the numbers in the United States and England were worse, with 33% obesity in children, Turkey came in last with only 10% of children suffering from excess weight.
Surprisingly, obesity rates are much lower among adult Israelis. Although 52% of men and 43% of women are reportedly overweight, only 17% of the adult population is considered obese.
The report considers the global obesity epidemic as a modern catastrophe, reinforced by the proliferation of processed food consumption, increased tension at the work place, long work hours and the volatile job market.
In its report, the OECD stressed the importance of compromise and cooperation between all relevant elements in an effort to tackle the phenomenon, and prevent future generations from carrying the burden.
All-out war against obesityIsrael has been preparing for an all-out war against obesity for the past few years, as part of a project dubbed "2020," meant to set goals in the field of medicine advancement and prevention by the year 2020.
The project has been developed by 21 committees, which recently concluded their findings. The finalized plan, which will be co-sponsored by the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, is expected to be submitted for government approval in the near future.
Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Roni Gamzu said on Saturday that "the obesity pandemic is no longer the sole issue of health establishments in Israel and across the world, but has become an extensive problem, which should concern the economies of each of these countries, due to its effects on the job market and the cost of health and welfare services.
"We are facing a national challenge that requires us to take action on several levels, including legislation," he noted.
Health Ministry Deputy Director-General Dr. Boaz Lev, who headed the "2020" project said, "The obesity phenomenon combines personal, social and economic damages. It is possible to change this trend by uniting all forces; changing behavioral patterns, creating community and state-level infrastructure, cooperation of the food industry and suitable legislation."
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