In recent years, the problem of obesity in Malta has escalated to a point where we are now forerunners in the subject on a worldwide scale. What’s good to know is that Malta is not sitting idly. Opposition Spokesperson Robert Cutajar, spokesperson for the family and children’s rights, elderly and people with disabilities, tells VIDA about a new law which will help citizens adhere to a healthy lifestyle and overcome the evolving issue.
A Healthy Lifestyle Bill, the first complete law put forward by a member from the opposition to be unanimously approved by all parliament members, will attempt to spread awareness about obesity between all members of the community.
Economically, obesity is costing Malta over 40 million euro every year. Health issues resulting from obesity translate to fertility problems and even cancer. The money spent on obesity-related difficulties could be used to invest in projects or research.
“When I first started out in parliament back in 2013, I used to shadow youth and sport. During a conference about the topic, I presented a paper on obesity which ignited a lot of interest in attendees. At the time it was just a paper which fit into a wider theme, but eventually it evolved into a whole society and government approach bill to tackle obesity in Malta.”
The law is the first of its kind in Europe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have fully supported the idea. It influences a change in culture though education that will be passed on to the next generation.
Starting from the early stages of pregnancy, expectant mothers will be informed about the kind of foods that not only their child should consume, but that they should routinely implement in their daily lifestyles.
“The next order of business would be to take this bill into schools via the education system.” Despite recent improvement to the education system that promotes a healthy lifestyle for children, there is still room for improvement. The team working on this bill is proposing a law that enforces a minimum number of hours of physical exercise during school hours. Other initiatives include the introduction of drinking fountains to encourage students to drink water.
The last chapter of the bill looks at how this initiative will work with the elderly. “The end goal is to have a law which specifies that twice a week, physical exercise sessions and informational talks are organised in day centres to keep everyone in the community healthy and in the loop.”
For this bill to really work, there needs to be an active role taken by the local councils, in the form of activities, campaigns and even informative talks for the people living in these communities.
“Throughout my time as mayor of Mellieħa, one of my main projects was to provide locals with a family park that includes an open air gym, where they are allowed a physical outlet at no cost.” This is a great idea to encourage fitness and healthy living within the community.
Implementing this law requires a change in culture. “My dream is for this bill to start working in full force. In reality, politicians come and go, but it is what we leave behind that really matters. Knowing that we will be improving the life of our children’s children will definitely help us sleep better at night.”
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Thea Formosa