Published Wednesday, 02 April 2014
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride with Lisnasharragh PS pupils. (© Michael Cooper)
In his annual report, Dr Michael McBride has said rising levels of inactive lifestyles and alcohol abuse threatens to undo years of work on improving public health.
Obesity has become a major concern and has been found to contribute to the increase in people with diabetes, heart disease and cancer, with almost twice as many living with diabetes as a decade ago.
Dr McBride said: "Excessive and irresponsible alcohol consumption, especially in young people, is threatening to unravel a generation of good work in public health and put further pressure on our health services.
"I think we should continue to engage in the debate about measures such as minimum pricing of alcohol and further restrictions on smoking, such as in private vehicles with children present."
The Public Health Agency has warned that more than half of adults are overweight or obese.
Dr McBride added: "Obesity is undoubtedly the most significant public health issue confronting our generation.
"A number of lifestyle factors continue to have a negative effect on our health and I am concerned about the impact that this will have on future generations."
Over 75,000 people suffer diabetes, where blood sugar levels have to be artificially controlled by injecting insulin or using tablets.
Rising levels of obesity, people living longer and improved detection and diagnosis of the condition are seen as contributing factors.
If left untreated diabetes can cause serious long-term health complications such as heart disease, kidney damage, eye problems, which can affect vision, and foot problems and can lead to amputation in the most severe cases.
The Chief Medical Officer has also said he is worried about the number of people who smoke.
A quarter of adults are believed to continue to smoke, that is despite concerted and continued campaigns, legislation and cessation services.
Despite his warnings, however, Dr McBride has said there have been broad improvements in public health with a steady rise in life expectancy and reduction in death rates from heart disease and the number of cancers in those aged under 75.
© UTV News