Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Tuesday) said the results of the Growing Up In Ireland survey, which measures, among other things, the level of obesity among Irish children, are worrying and indicate the amount of work that has to be done in educating parents and addressing this critical health issue.
The Growing Up in Ireland survey examines the factors contributing to and undermining the well-being of Irish five year olds with a view to formatting policy and services that best suits our children’s needs. The results are the first of their kind for this age group.
“Findings from the Growing Up In Ireland survey show that one in five children are overweight or obese, and that this figure increases to one in four for those aged three. These are exceptionally worrying statistics which are storing up chronic health problems for our children later in life.
“I recently attended a conference which focused on the nutrition a child receives in the first 1,000 days of his/her life; from conception to two years old. The impact of the decisions we make in terms of what we feed our children and the encouragement we give them to lead more active lives lays the foundations for the their future health.
“Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers are all linked to obesity and being overweight and we can greatly reduce a child’s chance of suffering from ill health if we take their nutrition seriously and give it the attention it deserves.
“Safefood recently launched a campaign aimed at educating parents to make certain lifestyle changes associated with portion sizes for children, the amount of sugary drinks we give them and the amount of screen time they are allowed. It is so unfair to give our children such a poor start in life simply by giving them the wrong foods.
“As the principal of a National School, I saw first-hand how important good nutrition was in giving children the best possible opportunity to develop and concentrate. And the children who had a good breakfast before coming to school were easily identifiable from those who did not.
“The results of this survey, which has been commissioned by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald TD, give us a magnificent insight into the areas that need most attention, allowing us to chart the best way forward for our children. It is evident from the results published today that childhood obesity must be prioritised to ensure that we are not storing up problems for the future.”