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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Rate of obesity among Irish children stabilising – except at disadvantaged schools

There is concern about the level of overweight among Irish children, as 20 per cent of them are obese.

Image: Child with food via Shutterstock

THE LATEST LOOK at obesity among Irish children shows that 20 per cent of children here are obese – but the rate is stabilising among some groups.

However, among disadvantaged groups, the obesity rate is not stabilising or decreasing.

The statistics from COSI, the European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative were published by the HSE today.

COSI monitors childhood obesity levels by measuring children in sample schools all over Europe, and these latest figures are from 2012.

They involved a nationally representative sample of 7, 9 and 11 year old children from a mix of Irish urban, rural and disadvantaged (DEIS) schools.

Concern

Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director of Health and Wellbeing, HSE, said that the 2012 COSI results show that more than 20 per cent of our children remain overweight or obese.

But she added that rates have either decreased or stabilised in some age groups.

“This is welcome news, but the overall concern about the level of overweight among our children remains,” said Dr O’Keeffe.

The study, by the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre, UCD for the HSE, comprises 12,236 children’s measurements in 163 schools collected in 2008, 2010 and again in 2012.

Professor Cecily Kelleher from UCD said that the rates of overweight and obesity have shown decreases at age 7, and stabilisation at age 9.

Critically, the observed reduction or leveling off is not happening in DEIS or disadvantaged schools, and this has implications for all, including health and public service partners, particularly those working on implementation of the Healthy Ireland framework.

Dr O’Keeffe said that tackling childhood obesity “requires the whole of government and whole of society response”.

Pilot programme

In September 2014, the health services will introduce a pilot growth monitoring programme in primary schools, as part of the school health check for 5-6 year olds.

This will commence in four pilot HSE areas – Mayo, Laois-Offaly, Dublin 15 and Cork City. Parents will be given feedback on their child’s growth, and if required, advice on steps they can take at home to ensure they rebalance diet and activity levels as their child grows.

Any children whose growth results show signs of clinical obesity will be offered a community-based lifestyle intervention programme, based on the successful W82GO programme delivered by the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street.

Read: Tuck shop crackdown: Quinn to issue healthy eating guidelines for schools>

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