Failure to tackle childhood obesity would be tantamount to failing every child in Ireland

The Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs has said tackling childhood obesity is if paramount importance, otherwise our State will face the consequences for generations to come, following the Committee starting discussion on this topic.

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, Alan Farrell has stated that the facts surrounding current levels of childhood obesity in our country provide for stark reading, and priority must be given to reversing the obesity crisis facing children and young people across Ireland today.

“Today (Wednesday) the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs heard from representatives from Temple Street Children’s University Hospital.

“The facts put before the Committee were stark, and they highlight the severity of childhood obesity across our country. Currently, 20% of children, and 25% of adolescents in Ireland are overweight or obese.

“Dr. Grace O’Malley, Chartered Physiotherapist and Multidisciplinary Clinical Lead, W82GO! Weight Management Service, Temple Street, informed the Committee of the fact that “the most recent data from the Irish arm of the WHO COSI (Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative) study and provided by the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre, reveals that the estimated number of primary school children with clinical obesity and morbid obesity is around 6.5% representing 65,000 children nationwide.”

“The scale of childhood obesity in our country is shocking. We all have a responsibility to all young people in Ireland to tackle obesity, not only to provide them with a healthier lifestyle now, but also to ensure our young people do not develop health complications like high-blood pressure, heart disease or type-2 diabetes as they grow older.

“Failure to get our young people more active, through increased participation in physical activity, to encourage young people and families to have a healthier diet, and to provide resources and supports to people with some psychological difficulties will represent a failure not only to our children today, but also to future generations.

“We often discuss measures to support our health system, however, if we failure to tackle important issues like childhood obesity, we will only be increasing the number of people who will depend on the services provided by our hospitals in future, as many of our young people will develop conditions which would otherwise be avoidable.

“Nicola Sheridan, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Pediatrics in the W82GO! Weight Management Service, Temple Street informed the Committee that with over 4000 attendances at the service between 2014 and 2018, 49% of their patients were under the age of 10, 29% were aged between 11 and 13 years, and 22% were 14 or older.

“Ms. Sheridan went on to state that “… 40% already have risk factors for heart disease; 17% meet the criteria for having the Metabolic Syndrome. 40% have significant and severe mental health problems, 75% have experienced bullying, (with 11% experiencing severe bullying).

“As Chair, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Children and Youth Affairs Committee to bring forward recommendations to address childhood obesity in Ireland. What is already clear is that we cannot wait any longer for comprehensive action to help children and young people who are overweight and obese, and to ensure we work to reduce the proportion of our younger citizens who will face these challenges in future.

“Failure to act now will be to fail our children and younger citizens, and our future generations.”