Provide a Health and Wellness voucher for citizens of Ireland

Provide a Health and Wellness voucher for citizens of Ireland

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Tom Gannon started this petition to Minister for Health and

A petition to have the Irish Government, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadker provide funding for a Health and Wellness voucher for the Citizens of Ireland.

I have been operating a bricks and mortar Health and Fitness business since 2010 and I have never experienced challenges like these. Ongoing rolling lockdowns are having a devastating impact on this industry, the people employed in it and the nation as a whole.

A recent study from the University of Cambridge found that during lockdowns physical activity levels significantly decreased, while at the same time, sedentary behaviours significantly increased. [1] 

The health of our nation has been poor for a long time. Some of the findings from an official HSE study pre pandemic state that: 

  • 31% of men and 27% of women between the ages of 15 and 24 in Ireland are obese. 
  • 60% of people in Ireland are overweight or obese.
  • 75% of people over the age of 50 in Ireland are overweight or obese.
  • “Heart disease and diabetes, which often accompany obesity, can deprive people of up to 19 years of a healthy life”  [2] 

20% of children in primary school are overweight or obese.

“..... consequences of childhood overweight and obesity can be lifelong, affecting quality of life and health both in childhood and adulthood”  [3] 

While there is currently no data for the economic cost of a sedentary lifestyle to the Irish healthcare system the Irish government estimates that the economic cost is over €1 billion [4] A cost that ignores the emotional toil placed on families by the illnesses attached to sedentary lifestyles.

These are enormous costs that are being paid for by the entire nation through taxation. That money could and should be invested proactively rather than reactively.

Over the last decade or so I have seen first hand the transformations people make when they are in the right environment, get the right advice and turn exercise into a habit. 

A reduction in population level BMI of just 5%, which is definitely possible when people get the right support and guidance from experts and have the right facilities available, is estimated to reduce the lifetime cost of childhood obesity by €1.1 billion (safefood 2017). [5]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of the fitness industry has gone to great lengths to mitigate any risks and create safe and supportive environments for people to get more active, exercise for their health and wellbeing.  Some of the measures that have been taken by the industry are:  

  • Comprehensive risk assessments.
  • Mandatory hand sanitisation upon entering the premises.
  • Significantly reduced capacities.
  • Staggered times that allow for adequate cleaning to take place in between classes. 
  • Large personalised workout spaces with a minimum of 2 metres space to themselves.
  • Extensive disinfection and sanitisation stations.

A Health and Wellness voucher for each irish citizen that can be used to get started or continue their health and wellbeing journey is a proactive step towards two worthwhile causes: 

  1. It helps an industry that has been closed for months get back on its feet by creating renewed interest in getting healthy and fit. 
  2. It helps the nation as a whole get more active and lose weight and in doing so, it lessens the burden on the already stretched healthcare system.

As already noted €1,000,000,000 euros could be saved by moving our collective BMI just 5%. 

Beyond the costs saved, having a collectively stronger, fitter and healthier nation would have an exponentially positive impact on our country as a whole. 

Let's make that easier and possible for people to do by incentivising it. 

Can we afford to do this is a question some might ask? I'm not sure this is the right question. I believe a better question is: 

Knowing what we know can we really afford to keep spending so much money in such a reactionary way.

Please sign my petition so we can start to take a proactive measure towards the physical and financial health of Ireland, our country. 

Tom Gannon

References

Available on request

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