AN OBESITY PROJECT that had its funding suspended last month has been praised by the mother of a child who took part in it.
Anne McEneaney’s daughter Ciara, who is now 12-years-old, first availed of the service in winter 2011. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, McEneaney said she first thought her daughter might have a problem when they were shopping for Communion dresses.
“We couldn’t get hold of one to fit her and it was then I realised,” she said. “She wasn’t one of these children who was hugely obese, she’s a tall, well-built child and I’d always just bought clothes for her that made her look slim”.
“At the time I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong, I was giving her food that I thought was healthy – and it was – but I was giving her too big a portion,” McEneaney added.
As a mother, she said it was difficult at first to bring up the topic as she was worried about the effect it would have on her daughter.
“She already had no confidence and I didn’t want this turning into an eating disorder, which is still a concern, so I was nervous,” she said.
McEneaney brought Ciara to a local obesity project called Up4it! in Monaghan which was HSE funded at the time. She said the service encouraged a change in the whole family so that the child is not singled out and it never focused on weight loss.
“It teaches you what you need to be healthy like knowing the quantity of meat that the children need or to stop cooking with oil and reduce the amount of cheese we eat,” she said.
Advice for parents
While the project encouraged children to become more active and to take pay more attention to their eating habits, it also provided support to parents like offering supermarket tours to give food recommendations.
“They also brought all the parents out one night with heart monitors to see what pace you should be going when walking and each family met on a separate night then with a dietician to get specialised advice,” McEneaney said.
She said her daughter is a “totally different child” since completing the 12 week programme and that it was a major confidence boost for her.
“When she was younger she found it hard to make friends and she thought maybe that was because she was heavy,” she said. “Now she’s joined lots of activities, lots of events for community games and she’s far happier.”
Despite the success of the project, funding was suspended by the HSE last month. McEneaney said services for children who are obese are severely lacking in Ireland and many are forced to pay huge expenses for a private dietician.
“Obviously we would have done it if it was the only option because you’d do anything for your child but I would have been afraid of bringing a child to a dietician all on our own because in the other service there were lots of other kids,” she said.
Earlier this week the Irish Nutrician and Dietic Institute called for the government to urgently devise a childhood obesity strategy and
implementation plan. Currently there are only three HSE childhood obesity prevention programmes across seven counties.
In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said that the project was a “specific time-bound initiative” and that it is “undergoing independent evaluation”.