Health minister: Get 'couch potatoes' moving

Health experts also recommend that state provide funds for 'stop smoking' courses.

couch potato 88 (photo credit: )
couch potato 88
(photo credit: )
Recommendations on promoting health and preventing disease - formulated during two days of deliberations at the National Institute for Health Policy Research (NIHPR) annual conference - were presented on Thursday to Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri. Among them was the allocation of some of the funding for organized sports teams to popular sport that would get "couch potatoes" out of their chairs, and the inclusion of smoking cessation courses in the basket of health services. The health minister - the seventh to appear before the annual conference since it was established seven years ago - came out strongly against a proposal raised recently that a new national authority be established to promote health and prevent disease, saying this was the ministry's job. The NIHPR recommendations were formulated by some 80 health professionals, academics, health fund managers, hospital directors and others meeting at a hotel near Safed. Although their proposals are not binding on anyone, including the ministry, the discussion of disease prevention and health promotion constituted a significant change in priorities from an almost total immersion in problems related to treating disease in hospitals and community clinics. Conference participants called on the Health Ministry to declare that its Health 2020 program for health promotion be turned into a "national target" to be implemented in the coming years, with a supreme interministerial body that would allocate responsibilities, build a plan for application and receive funding for its operations. It would coordinate health promotion activity in the government, education system, IDF, workplaces, local authorities and others. The experts agreed that unless efforts to promote health and prevent disease are bolstered today, the burden of chronic disease on the medical system will be financially unbearable within a decade. The state should give special bonuses to health funds that succeed in promoting the health of their members (through reduced smoking, promotion of exercise and reducing excessive weight) and good health should be marketed and promoted in the same way that fast food is pushed by restaurant chains, it was agreed. It was also recommended that once a year, the authorities would rate major workplaces according to the extent of their efforts to promote the health of their employees. These certificates of approval would be made public, and employers that did the most would get the most credit. Legislation should be passed to restrict advertising of products harmful to health. Taxes would be levied on hookahs (tobacco water pipes), which are as dangerous as cigarettes but have become very fashionable among youngsters. Trans fats and other harmful components should be labelled clearly on food packages. No consensus was reached on whether to pass a "fat tax" on high-fat and high-calorie afoods, but the experts did say that prices of low-fat and low-sugar food versions of products should be cheaper to encourage their consumption. They also proposed that efforts be made to encourage use of bicycles, including the paving of paths, allowing bikes to be brought onto trains and cheap rentals. Health promotion should be recognized as a profession along with clinical dietitians and other paraprofessionals, with salaries high enough to attract high-quality personnel.