Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Diabetes and Obesity: Time to Act

5 March, 2005


Sinn Féin representative for Ballycastle Cara McShane speaking on motions 206 & 207 on Obesity & Diabetes said "At present, it is estimated that around 10 per cent of the overall health budgets in Ireland currently go on treating the complications of diabetes. We need to bring forward positive interventions to impact positively upon the lifestyles of children and adolescents, and to prevent an increase in avoidable illnesses which if not properly tackled now, will become an ever-increasing burden on an over-stretched health service.

Ms McShane said:

Last year, in a report entitled "Diabetes and Obesity: Time to Act" the International Diabetes Federation warned that society is currently facing a twin epidemic of both conditions. Children who are overweight or obese face a myriad of health problems, ranging from the development of conditions such as diabetes to negative psychological effects. Overweight and obesity adversely affects psychological development, particularly self-esteem and peer interaction of young people in their formative years.

In childhood, obesity can lead to high blood pressure, high blood insulin levels and abnormal blood lipid levels. Together, these risk factors make up what is known as insulin resistance syndrome, a pre-diabetes state that has been diagnosed in children as young as five. This can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is already presenting in overweight young Irish people. Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is also becoming increasingly evident in childhood and adolescence. Young people can also experience complications, including developing cardiovascular risk factors as a result.

This type of diabetes is commonly referred to as 'adult onset diabetes', due to the fact that it is most commonly found in people over the age of 40, who are overweight and do not exercise enough. One of the most disturbing trends in the area of diabetes at present is the growing number of children in Ireland now being diagnosed with Type 2, where traditionally this was a disease of the over 50s, a situation which would have been unheard of several years ago. The main reason for the increase in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes is lifestyle.

The "Time to Act" report recommends specific strategies for treatment and prevention commencing in early childhood, that need to be implemented nationally by governments worldwide, in order to reduce the incidence of obesity, subsequent type 2 diabetes and eventual heart disease. The report points out that:

- Obesity is the main modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

- Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

- Lifestyle interventions, including a healthier diet and moderate physical activity, are proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 60%.

Diabetes is a chronic, and to a large extent, like obesity, a preventable condition. At present, it is estimated that around 10 per cent of the overall health budgets in Ireland currently go on treating the complications of diabetes.

Motions 206 and 207 clearly set out strategic ways forward through which positive interventions can be made to reverse this overall trend, to impact positively upon the lifestyles of children and adolescents, and to prevent an increase in avoidable illnesses which if not properly tackled now, will become an ever-increasing burden on an over-stretched health service.

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