Health Ministry Warns: Nearly One-Quarter of Israelis Could Face Obesity Crisis

By Aryeh Stern

During a session with the Knesset Health Committee on Monday, Health Ministry officials raised concerns that within six years, nearly one-quarter of the Israeli population could be dealing with obesity.

Lawmakers discussed the alarming rise in obesity and smoking rates, as well as the widening health disparities among socio-economic groups.

MK Avraham Betzalel of Shas highlighted a 2022 report indicating that 60% of adults aged 20-64 suffer from obesity, while the proportion of smokers, currently at 21% of the population aged 16-74 (29.1% among men), is also troubling.

Betzalel emphasized the close link between diseases and socioeconomic status, with men from lower socioeconomic backgrounds smoking nearly twice as much as those from higher ones.

MK Yoni Meshariki, also of Shas, called for a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders to develop tailored programs to combat obesity and smoking, especially among children and teenagers.

Prevention emerged as a key focus, with calls for improved health education, training for healthcare professionals, and the establishment of multidisciplinary clinics, particularly in underserved areas.

MK Yasir Hujeirat of the United Arab List expressed frustration over the lack of progress in addressing obesity in marginalized communities.

Prof. Nachman Ash, chairman of the National Institute for Health Policy Research, stressed the urgent need to tackle obesity and smoking due to their widespread impact on public health. Dr. Ella Ein Mor highlighted the severe consequences of childhood obesity, including its association with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Sima Wetzler, coordinator of the Healthy Cities Network, noted lower obesity rates in the chareidi sector, possibly due to lifestyle factors such as limited screen time.

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