These diseases are largely preventable – junk food and alcohol costing thousands of Irish lives each year: Janis Morrissey

Janis Morrissey

Today, a Dáil committee was informed that Ireland is witnessing the loss of thousands of lives annually due to a failure to confront influential food and alcohol industries. Approximately 35,000 individuals succumb to various causes each year in Ireland, with three-quarters of these deaths attributed to chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and respiratory ailments. The Health Promotion Alliance Ireland (HPAI) emphasized that this toll could be significantly reduced if the government prioritizes preventive measures against chronic diseases and disregards the “vested interests” opposing progressive health strategies.

The HPAI referred to recent research indicating that four industries – tobacco, unhealthy foods, fossil fuels, and alcohol – collectively contribute to at least one-third of global deaths annually. Among the proposed measures is the regulation of advertisements promoting junk food targeting children. Representatives from the umbrella group included Janis Morrissey, the Director of Health Promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation, Dr. Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, and Dr. Liz O’Sullivan, a Nutrition Lecturer at TU Dublin.

They emphasized that the Government must demonstrate a similar resolve to what led to the successful implementation of the workplace smoking ban in addressing the root causes of chronic diseases.

“In Ireland, we are approaching the 20-year mark since the implementation of that ban,” stated Ms. Morrissey. “This ambitious initiative significantly enhanced public health and showcased the Government’s capability to confront the powerful tobacco industry lobby.”

“Now, the Government must replicate this courageous action across other sectors, all of which employ similar tactics to thwart progressive health policies,” she added.

Ms. Morrissey also highlighted that too much emphasis is placed on awareness campaigns and slogans like ‘drink responsibly’ to encourage individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles.