Today I spoke in the Seanad following the revelation that one-in-four children are obese. I called for specific information so that solutions can be proposed on a detailed level to what is rapidly becoming a great challenge to the future health of the nation.
We have a dangerous gap in the level of detail in our statistics for children and their level of obesity for particular age groups in Ireland. Right now, we know that one in four children in Ireland are obese, however what we don’t know is even basic information like how that breaks down by age category – is it trending worse amongst younger children? Do children become more likely to be overweight upon commencement in primary school? Are urban areas more likely than rural areas? There are many questions, and a gap in the statistics that is beyond doubt – and without the problem being specific, we can’t propose specific solutions.
One thing that has worked in an international context is the idea of an online obesity calculator being used for children as they grow, much like how ideal weight is calculated for very young children, this could be used throughout childhood to ensure that children are more or less on-track and could also be be part of any regular check-up until a certain age.
The second is a regular report from the HSE, perhaps quarterly, which highlights what the levels of obesity are amongst particular demographics and what steps are being taken to relieve this problem.
I believe that these steps should be part of any preventative approach to medicine as it helps children live healthier lives, helps parents focus on the issue and also helps our society by ensuring we do something to fix the problem of one in four children being obese.