Greek Junior Minister for Health and Social Development, Christos Andonis visited Australia last week while on his way to New Zealand.
Mr Andonis whose portfolio includes the areas of sport and nutrition met with his Australian peers in Sydney and Canberra to discuss health and education programs combating obesity.
He said he was keen to “borrow ideas on ways to combat obesity which has become a major concern for Greece in recent years.”
Many Greeks have abandoned the traditional and healthier Mediterranean diet substituting it for pizza, burgers, sweets and fizzy drinks. At the same time they are eating larger portions of meat and carbohydrates.
“Fighting obesity is a major focus for the Papandreou Government” said Mr Andonis from Canberra on Wednesday.
“The health costs of treating the effects of obesity will be greatly reduced through preventative programs” the Junior Minister added.
Greece’s citizens are now among the fattest in Europe, obesity is becoming a national epidemic at great cost to the national health system according to visiting Greek Junior Minister for Health and Social Development.
Approximately 60 percent of the population lives in urban areas, where there are few places to enjoy outdoor activities, while schools cut back on physical education and proffer high calorie snacks at the canteens – the forecast is for a fatter future unless something is done.
The International Obesity Task Force last year revealed that 38 percent of Greek women obese or overweight and over 75 percent of Greek men above the age of 30 overweight.
Meanwhile, Greek surveys show that 40 percent of Greek children aged between 9 and 18 are overweight, with boys in that age group weighing in at 15 kg heavier than their counterparts of 20 years ago.
Mr Andonis’ motivational motto in the fight against obesity is, “Wherever a new gym opens a hospital closes.”
Mr Andonis is on his way to New Zealand where he is leading a 30 strong contingent of athletes competing in the Asian Para Games.
On more general issues of Greece’s future Mr Adonis expressed “optimism and pride” with the work that the Papandreou government is doing to make the Greek state more transparent and efficient.