Schools can play a role in addressing rising levels of child obesity
Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson, Deputy Seán Crowe has concerns that up to 327,000 children in Ireland are either obese or overweight.
Deputy Crowe continued: “According to Dr Donal O’Shea, a consultant endocrinologist at St Columcille’s Hospital in Dublin, 20% of Irish children are obese or overweight and we will face a US style epidemic if the Government does not act immediately.
“Parents must do everything possible to ensure their children are not putting their health at risk through poor diets and lack of exercise.
“There are numerous barriers preventing children from adopting healthy lifestyles and the importance of having a balanced diet and regular exercise cannot be overstated. Schools and Third Level Institutions need to be proactive on this matter and introduce measures such as banning soft drink dispensing machines and junk food on their campuses.
“To compound matters further, television and other mass media advertising of unhealthy sugar rich foods and drinks can adversely influence children and young people when making lifestyle choices. It is our view that this type of advertising needs to be limited and regulated in a way similar to the promotion of alcohol and tobacco products.
“Greater focus needs to be placed in encouraging sports and after hours activities in schools and this must be combined with healthy eating programmes so that children are at least able to eat one health meal per day.
“In the North of Ireland, my party colleague Caitríona Ruane, in her role as Education Minister, funded the GAA and IFI for coaching programmes that were delivered to 33,000 children in 551 primary schools. These type of schemes can go some way to addressing the rising levels of obesity in children and should be an integral part of the school curriculum.
“Sinn Féin shares the concerns of health professionals and health user groups about the increasing prevalence of obesity in children and young people. We believe that there is a need for an All-Ireland Taskforce to implement an effective and comprehensive strategy to deal with this increasing health problem and the education of our young people can make a real difference.” ENDS