Pediatricians in Ireland are seeing more obese children than they did two years ago. Along with the obesity, 46% of doctors are seeing the related problems of more asthma and 50% are seeing more sleep disorders. Around 90% of Irish pediatricians say that obesity is their top priority according to Paul Cullen, reporter for the Irish Times.
A survey of Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Ireland members showed:
- 60% see more children with mental health problems than two years ago
- 79% see a rise in cases of anxiety
- 37% reporting a rise in self-harm
- 24% seeing more depression
“Getting key public-health messages out to families early is essential if we are to reduce the numbers of children suffering obesity and mental-health related illness,” said Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College, which has members on both sides of the border and an office in Belfast. “Obesity and mental health are two major priorities … to be addressed.”
A public poll commissioned by the College of Northern Ireland showed that two-thirds of parents are concerned about childhood obesity. It revealed that parents are not understanding that healthy food can also be inexpensive; how physically active children under five should be; and that they should cook healthy food for their children.
Overall, 27% of children are overweight or obese in Ireland, which is double what it was 15 years ago.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that underfunded services and a lack of early intervention are to blame for the children not getting the treatment they need for mental issues. Dr. Hilary Cass, president of RCPCH, says:
” In addition to this, nearly 20% of children in Northern Ireland are now overweight or obese before they start primary school, and judging from this public poll, more must be done to raise public health awareness.”
In June, the Irish Times ran an article written by Ronan McGeevy, that quoted Department of Health secretary-general Ambrose McLoughlin as saying that this may be the first generation of parents who will “bury their children”. He added that the obesity problem in the younger generation is fast becoming a “public health priority”.
McLoughlin said to the Irish Heart Association that one way to tackle obesity is to impose a 20% tax hike on all sugary drinks. Another method, he said, was to restrict the availability of sweets, chocolate, and fizzy drinks, none of which are not necessary for human health.
He also shared that eight government departments are coordinating on an action plan called “Healthy Ireland” and that it would soon be presented to the Minister of Health James Reilly.
A recent poll showed that 52% of the Irish public would support a 20% tax on sugary drinks. With the €60 million ($81 million) raised by such a tax, there would be enough to subsidize purchasing fruit and vegetables and to support the children’s health fund in schools.
Professor Donal O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist, said that the explosion in obesity has made a 1,200% increase in those with a BMI of 52 or over (18-25 is normal).