Couch Potato Culture Costs Health Service [Euro]1.6bn a Year
Byline: Petrina Vousden Health Editor
OUR couch potato lifestyle is costing the State [euro]1.6billion a year in healthcare costs and the bill is set to increase unless action is taken to tackle the country's growing waistline, experts warned yesterday.
At two hospitals - Merlin Park Hospital in Galway and South Infirmary in Cork city - patients have become so fat that they have had to install larger than normal MRI scanners to meet demand.
An obesity conference in Dublin yesterday was told that [euro]1.6billion of the State's health budget was being spent on diseases associated with inactivity and obesity like stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and diabetes.
Almost 40 per cent of the population is overweight, but less than one in three people get the recommended 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise that is part of a healthy lifestyle.
At the third Nutrition and Health Foundation Conference in Dublin, delegates heard the British chief medical officer say that physical inactivity cost the UK 11 per cent of its health budget.
When the UK figure is translated into an Irish context, this comes to [euro]1.6 billion per year, the conference was told.
Medical director of the VHI Dr Bernadette Carr warned that obesity is costing the State from the 'cradle to the grave,' adding that the country's expanding waistline is being felt across the healthcare system.
Dr Carr said that while about 50 per cent of the Irish population have health insurance - and 75 per cent of those with VHI - the increasing costs 'are incurred by everybody who pays for healthcare, whether public or private.' She said the health costs that VHI experiences 'are pretty much' exactly the same as other health insurance companies or the public health system would incur.
Dr Carr pointed to the recent Coombe Hospital study which showed that 43 per cent of pregnant women who had attended for ante-natal care were overweight or obese in the early stages of pregnancy. …