Photo by Hillel Maeir/TPS on 13 February, 2017

One-Quarter of Israeli Population Will Be Obese Within Six Years, Health Officials Warn Knesset

Public By Pesach Benson • 1 April, 2024

Jerusalem, 1 April, 2024 (TPS) -- Within six years, nearly one-quarter of the Israeli population could be grappling with obesity, Health Ministry officials told the Knesset Health Committee on Monday.

The revelation came as lawmakers discussed escalating rates of obesity and smoking alongside widening health disparities between socio-economic groups.

MK Avraham Bezalel of Shas cited a 2022 report that found that 60% of the adult population (age 20-64) suffers from obesity. The increase in the proportion of smokers, who are currently 21% of the population aged 16-74 (29.1% of men in Israel) is also worrying.

“The relationship between diseases and socioeconomic status is close,” Bezalel said, noting that men from a low socioeconomic status smoke almost twice as much as men from higher socioeconomic status at a rate of 35.4% versus 18.3%. As the trend continues to grow, he said, obesity will damage the quality of life and social mobility, impact people’s ability to earn, and significantly lower army enlistment.

MK Yoni Meshariki of Shas for a collaborative effort involving members of the Knesset, government ministries, health insurance funds, local authorities, and public opinion leaders to devise tailored programs to combat obesity and smoking, particularly among children and teenagers.

Prevention emerged as a central theme, with calls for enhanced health education, training for healthcare professionals, and the establishment of multidisciplinary clinics, especially in underserved areas.

MK Yasir Hujeirat of the United Arab List lamented the lack of progress in combating obesity within marginalized communities.

Prof. Nachman Ash, chairman of the National Institute for Health Policy Research, stressed the urgency of addressing obesity and smoking due to their widespread impact on public health. Dr. Ella Ein Mor warned of the dire consequences of childhood obesity, citing its association with diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Sima Wetzler, coordinator of the Healthy Cities Network, offered a glimmer of hope by pointing out lower obesity rates in the Orthodox Jewish sector, possibly attributed to lifestyle factors such as limited screen time.