Gov't panel to vote on ‘healthy lifestyle’ education

If approved, the plan would encourage physical exercise by adults and children, explain proper nutrition.

Physical activity general 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
Physical activity general 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation will decide on Monday whether the state will adopt and implement through 2015 a comprehensive national plan to educate the public and encourage it to adopt a healthy lifestyle instead of focusing only on treating disease.
If approved, the plan would encourage physical exercise by adults and children; explain proper nutrition; encourage the workplace to promote employees’ good health; discourage the sale of junk food in school vending machines and serving it in cafeterias; reduce the smoking rate; promote the development of new food varieties with higher nutritional values; restrict advertising of unhealthful food to minors via the media; and require the labeling of nutritional values in restaurants and fast-food shops and the listing of calories in unwrapped foods sold in stores and outdoor markets. It would also discourage the sale of dangerous trans fats in processed foods.
All this would entail new legislation and amendments.
The plan was initiated by the Health Ministry, which – if approved – will implement and coordinate it with a number of other ministries. The proposed Health Ministry budget designated for this over the next five years would include NIS 26 million annually (NIS 130m. in total), plus NIS 31m. a year from other ministries (NIS 155m.). In addition, 31 job slots for health promoters would be hired through 2013 at Health Ministry expense.
The plan follows years of preparation by committees under the auspices of the Health Ministry’s Toward a Healthy Future 2020 plan.
Among the other ministries to be involved are Interior, Finance, Agriculture, Communications, Education, Culture and Sport and Industry, Trade and Labor. If the Ministerial Committee on Legislation gives the go ahead, a steering committee will present its proposals to the cabinet within 120 days.
The plan was formulated out of the realization that obesity, heart disease and other disorders result from unhealthy lifestyles in the population – causing suffering and disability, raising hospitalization rates and shortening life spans.
The changes would be carried out in coordination with previous recommendations by the World Health Organization and meetings in Paris last year of OECD countries.
All the guidelines have been prepared based on scientific evidence on what promotes good health, reduces socioeconomic gaps in public health and promotes interaction with the public and with professional and public organizations, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.
According to the latest statistics, 37 percent of Israelis aged 18 and over are overweight and an additional 15% are obese. It is additionally worrisome that 14% of youths aged 12 to 18 are overweight and 7% are obese – thus over a fifth have improper weight. The ministry said that only 35% of Israeli adults exercise regularly, but the figure is just 20% in the Arab sector. Just a fifth of children aged 11 to 15 exercise at least four times a week, and 29% of adolescents exercise two or three times a week.
As physical exertion declines in the population, there has been an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar and fats, the ministry said.
Weight concerns cost the economy NIS 5.6 billion a year.
Meanwhile, while congratulating the ministry on presenting the program, a group of health consumer organizations commented that it would not help people who are already ill and demanded that the budget for health promotion and disease prevention not come at the the expense of funds to treat disease.
The ministry is now hosting a meeting of the WHO’s European Region of which Israel is a member, and the new plan is being discussed there. Ministers, directors-general and other senior officials from 47 European countries are present.
A professional conference – the first of its kind – is also being held to promote coordination among various government ministries, local authorities, business interests and other organizations to promote good health.