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Child obesity

HSE childhood obesity services "sparse or non existent" across country

Calls have been made for the retail sector to remove vending machines from schools and the watershed for the advertisement of high fat foods to be increased to 9pm.

HSE CHILDHOOD OBESITY services are “sparse or non-existent” across the majority of the country, it was revealed today.

The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) is now calling on Government to urgently devise a childhood obesity strategy and
implementation plan.

The call came as it launched the inaugural Nourish Children Week, a public awareness campaign that seeks to raise awareness and understanding of issues relating to childhood nutrition including childhood obesity, weaning and spoon feeding and nutritional support for children with disabilities.

At the launch of Nourish Children Week today, the organisation said that parents have little or no services to turn to in their community if their children are overweight or obese.

Obesity prevention

There are just three HSE childhood obesity prevention programmes across seven counties, and just two group treatment programmes exist, covering three counties.

Approximately 1 in 4 (30,000) primary school children in Ireland today are either overweight or obese, said INDI.

It completed a mapping exercise of childhood obesity services across the country, which showed that there are only three childhood obesity prevention programmes:

  • The ‘Lifestyle’ programme in Longford & Westmeath, Offaly and Laois (for children aged 5-10 years)
  • The ‘Cool Dude’ Food Programme in Dublin South East/ Wicklow (for children aged 8-12 years)
  • The ‘Bounce – Built to Move’ programme in Galway (for children aged 9 – 12 years)

Additionally, the two group intervention programmes for obese children operating across three counties are:

  • The ‘Way to Go Kids’ programme in Limerick (for children aged 9 – 14 years)
  • The SCOTT programme in Cork and Kerry (for children aged < 18 years old)

INDI said that Temple Street Children’s University Hospital is the only children’s hospital with an intervention programme (called W82GO) for obese children with co-morbidities, but it currently has a nine month waiting list.

There are no dedicated clinics for obese children at Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin but limited access through endocrinology and other specialities. Obese children are seen by a dietitian in the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght but the waiting list is over a year.

Tackling child obesity

Richelle Flanagan, Dietitian and President, INDI said:

[D]espite the Departments of Health and Children constantly highlighting the ever increasing rise of childhood obesity, they have not grasped the nettle and devised a national strategy and implementation plan to tackle it.

In partnership with Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, the INDI has presented a Vision for Childhood Obesity Policy and Services.

It asks the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in partnership with Department of Health and other government departments to develop a national cross-sectoral strategy for childhood obesity prevention and intervention service.

It also wants the HSE to agree the best model for community based childhood obesity prevention and intervention programmes with reference to existing evidence-based best practice programmes.

It also suggests:

  • Parent education on weaning, spoon feeding and importance of physical activity (before and after pregnancy) to be prioritised
  • A Healthy Eating Flag for schools to be introduced to complement the existing Active Flag system.
  • Physical Education to be re-instated as part of core curriculum subjects in primary and post primary secondary schools
  • The retail sector to remove vending machines from schools.
  • The BAI to increase the watershed from 6pm to 9pm for advertising of high fat, salt and sugar foods (HFSS) and drinks

Dr Sinead Murphy, consultant paediatrician at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, said: “The Irish Government has no choice but to work to prevent and treat this ‘disease’ and tackle the ‘toxic environment’ that simultaneously restricts activity and stimulates higher calorie intake.”

Read: Does promotion of child weight gain lead to disease later in life?>

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