(ANSA) - Rome, December 5 - Italy lags behind the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of prevention, OECD representative Franco Sassi told the Senate health commission on Thursday.
"Spending on disease prevention throughout the OECD is disappointing at just 3% of overall health care spending, but Italy's is the worst at 0.5% of the health care budget", Sassi said.
Prevention is crucial in fighting an emerging chronic disease epidemic, Sassi said, pointing to what he called Italy's complacency over the fact that it has fewer obese adults (1 in 10) than other countries, where as many as a third are obese.
But Italy does have a child obesity problem, with 1 in 3 kids overweight or obese by age 8.
Italy also has a lot of smokers both young and old, and while alcohol consumption has declined by 37% since 2000, its youth has recently discovered binge-drinking, Sassi told MPs.
Implementing obesity-preventing diet and exercise programs would cost "17 euros per capita and avert 50-70,000 deaths from chronic illnesses a year", Sassi concluded.