Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that Israel will form a national plan to prevent and combat obesity and warned that extreme overweight is an added COVID-19 risk factor. The minister was speaking in context of World Obesity Day on Thursday.
"I asked the director of the Health Ministry to suggest a national plan to face obesity in Israel," he said, "and to build up the services offered to various communities and expand the variety of medical expert responses available in clinics."
Addressing the impact of gyms, swimming pools, and schools being shut down for long periods of time during the lockdown enforced by the government to combat COVID-19 infections, he mentioned that “many of us decreased our exercise habits” and added that “changes to eating routines” led to the numbers of overweight Israelis to shoot up.
Israeli media reported many Israelis, working from home or needing to look after children who did not go to school, increased their junk food consumption. Alcohol sales and gaming also went up as many people spent more and more time indoors.
Edelstein shared that, in his tours of the country’s COVID-19 wards, he saw that many among those worst hit by COVID-19 were also obese and cautioned that more than half the population gained some weight in the past year.
He said that obesity is a “sensitive topic to discuss” but that the dangers involved with it require the issue to be more present on the public level.
He lauded the efforts by the Health Ministry to introduce a color system for harmful and healthy foods, marked by a red and green label respectively. To limit junk food ads meant for teens and children and to teach good eating habits in school.
While the individual suffers from the health risks that obesity leads to, among them added risk of heart illness and some forms of cancer, on the state level obesity costs the Israeli economy NIS 20 billion per year and increases the work load doctors and hospitals face.
The message of the 2021 World Obesity Day is global responsibility, an educational video on the site claims obesity “is a disease“, and that only mutual efforts can help lower it.
While all data points to people all over the world putting on weight, some argue that it is wrong to view large people as “sick” or in need of a cure.
Some large-size models claim that normative beauty standards would require an average woman to starve herself to attain them.Singer Netta Barzilai, who won the Eurovision contest and is a successful performer, addressed the issue publicly on several occasions.