Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Child Obesity crisis demands strategic response

15 June, 2007

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has said that the crisis of childhood obesity demands the full implementation of a strategic response that includes education about healthy eating in our schools and for parents and a new approach to guidelines for advertisers and food manufacturers.

Mr Ní Chuilín said:

"No one should underestimate the seriousness of childhood obesity. There are serious long-term health consequences. Obesity is a serious, chronic medical condition and the linkage with diabetes is well-established, with a significant increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in children under 18 years of age. Obese children also have a 25-50% chance of progression to adult obesity.

"We want to see a strategic response that includes education about healthy eating in our schools and for parents and a new approach to advertising. Sinn Féin believes there is a need for an All Ireland Taskforce to implement an effective and comprehensive strategy to deal with the increasing prevalence of obesity in children and young people."

There key priority areas in which a coordinated cross-departmental approach should be made including:

  • Healthier Schools
  • A Physically Active Community
  • Support for Parents
  • Greater Community Understanding
  • Increased Research and Knowledge
  • Increased Regulation of the Food and Drinks Manufacturing Industries and Advertising

Any action plan developed by the Taskforce on Obesity must:

  • Provide an effective, high quality range of programmes, services and infrastructure to increase healthy nutrition, increase physical activity and decrease sedentary living
  • Achieve clearly defined social, health, and economic targets

Ms Ní Chuilín also highlighted the need for a focus on advertising, she said:

"There are a range of NGO's and Trade Unions including the Children's Food Campaign, Diabetes UK, National Consumer Council, National Heart Forum and National Union of Teachers demanding action to protect children from irresponsible food marketing tricks.

"Advertisers should not be allowed to consider children as fair game for intensive advertising campaigns, including advertising of unhealthy food. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of mass marketing and product tie-ins with many of the most popular children's programmes and films - Advertising that targets children should be limited in the same manner as has occurred with the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products.

"Sinn Féin would also like to see the Food Safety Promotion Board equipped with the ability to influence and bring about speedy and effective regulatory and legislative change in relation to packaging and labelling of foods and drinks, particularly those aimed specifically at children and young people." ENDS

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