Obesity: Public Health Problem No.1

The College has issued a statement on obesity following Prof Donal O'Shea's interview on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, today 25 August 2015.

According to a recent World Health Organisation report, Ireland is on track to being the fattest country in Europe by 2030 with 9 out of 10 people overweight or obese.

“It is very clear that obesity is now public health problem no.1 for the future of our country’s health; mental, physical and financial,” says Prof Donal O’Shea, Chair of the Policy Group on Obesity at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. “The biggest change that I am seeing in weight management clinics now is that patients are getting younger and heavier for their age.

“If you put the weight on at a young age, you can become dangerously overweight in adulthood. Those patients weighing in the region of 25/26 stone had started to gain weight under the age of 5. Those who are overweight and obese not only face physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, but also self-esteem and other mental health issues.

“Action must be taken now to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. Parents must look at what foods they are giving their children and become aware of the high sugar content in many foods and childhood favourites like fizzy drinks and high-sugar cereals.

"The Government, like the food and drinks industry, is happy to talk about personal responsibility and choice. This is no longer good enough when we know that the environment is responsible for a major part of the problem. Only strong decisions by government backed by legislation will change the environment and enable personal change. It's already too late for many, but that is no reason for continued lethargy in tackling the country’s No.1 public health problem."

Prof Donal O’Shea is a Consultant Endocrinologist at St. Vincent’s University Hospital and St Columcille's Hospital, where he treats overweight and morbidly obese patients.