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The Muslim Health Network Welcomes the Government White Paper on Smoking and Obesity

The Muslim Health Network (MHN) welcomes the government White Paper on Public Health launched today. As a consultative member of the Choosong Health directive, MHN supports the government and its efforts in improving public health, as it has addressed the key issues that the Muslim Health Network has been advocating since 2003. Smoking in the work place and restaurants will be banned and the government will also be taking serious steps to address the promotion of unhealthy foods to children, clearer nutritional labelling on food and practical advice on pursuing a healthier lifestyle, all of which will assist in tackling obesity and poor health within the Muslim community.

There are over 20,000 restaurants, curry houses, kebab and shwarma outlets in the UK owned by Muslims from Bangladesh, Morocco, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Waiters and staff working in these establishments will now enjoy the same smoke-free environment that workers in other industries have enjoyed since the 1990’s under health and safety measures. Hence it is felt that Muslim restaurant owners, workers and chefs will play a significant role in future public health improvements in Britain.

Naeem Darr, Chair of the Muslim Health Network, said: “A smoke free restaurant environment has a very motivating effect upon both the waiters and the patrons to do something about their own smoking habit. Evidence from New York and the Republic of Ireland has shown that many waiters and patrons have decided to quit smoking by accessing professional help and nicotine replacement therapies since the total bans came into effect.”
“ The Muslim Health Network is also in the process of liaising with chefs, halal meat shops, grocers and others involved with the food industry to support healthy eating amongst the Muslim communities. In the hope that they can assist in the drive for major dietary change, that promotes more vegetables, fish and less red meat. We also want to see people taking more regular exercise.”

The Health Survey of England in 1999 and the 2001 Census revealed that smoking, obesity, heart disease, diabetes II, long term illness and use of medicines and GP services were very high amongst Muslim groups. Stopping smoking, the eating of 5 portions of fruit, controlling weight and taking a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day had a great impact upon improving health and reducing risks of heart disease. MHN has been actively engaged in health promotion activities within the Muslim community since 2003, it was an active member of the Choosing Health consultative committee within which it supported and voted for a ban on smoking in enclosed public areas. A case study of one of its smoking cessation initiatives has been cited within chapter 2 of the Choosing Health White Paper.



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