We welcome Safefood Ireland’s Campaign on Childhood Obesity

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has welcomed the launch today (21 October 2013) of Safefood Ireland’s public health campaign on Childhood Obesity, saying that it will do much to raise awareness of the fact that childhood obesity is a major threat to public health.

Safefood Ireland's campaign provides information about how to prevent children obesity and how to manage it within a family situation. 

Dr Catherine Hayes, Associate Professor in Public Health and co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians Policy Group on Obesity said “In Ireland, 1 in 4 children in Ireland are overweight or obese and these children will become the obese adults of the future with a markedly increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, heart disease and a host of other chronic conditions. Unless we tackle obesity in childhood, we are fighting a losing battle in the long term.”

Not only do obese children face a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and a host of other health problems, but the State will bear the financial burden of treatment and lost productivity as a result. In 2009, the cost of obesity in the Republic of Ireland was estimated at €1.13bn.

Severely obese people have a premature mortality similar to smokers and on average they die eight to ten years sooner than people of normal weight.  Increasingly, lack of exercise and excessive consumption of fatty and sugary foods has become the behavioural norm for developed countries, and Ireland is no exception. Relentless junk food advertising, near ubiquitous availability of cheap unhealthy food and increasingly sedentary lifestyles have led to a situation where obesity has become a major public health threat.

It is a threat that will exacerbate existing health inequalities in this country, as there is a social gradient to obesity. Recent ‘Growing up in Ireland’ Studies have shown that children, particularly girls, from less socio-economically advantaged households are more likely to be overweight.

Prof Hilary Hoey, Dean of the Faculty of Paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and member of the Policy group on Obesity said, “The family environment is of primary importance in combating childhood obesity but sometimes parents themselves are unclear as to what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle for their child. Being overweight has become very common in Irish children, and in many cases, parents do not recognise that their child is overweight or obese. Parents want practical advice so that they can be aware of the issue and can provide an environment conducive to their child maintaining a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle. This campaign offers advice that allows them to do that, such as advice on portion size, managing treats, and types and levels of exercise”.

The RCPI Policy Group on Obesity is comprised of medical experts in public health, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, Endocrinology, paediatrics and other specialities where obesity is of concern. The policy group also has representation from other groups including Safefood, the Irish Heart Foundation, and the Irish Cancer Society.

For Media Queries contact

Kate Healy, Communications Manager, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Tel: 085 8722109