Body weight and eating habits in 5-12 year old Irish children
A shared goal of safefood and the Health Service Executive (HSE) is to improve the health of the Irish population. One of the greatest public health threats facing all developed countries today, including the island of Ireland, is obesity. It is crucial that the various sectors and disciplines in the country work together to successfully deal with this growing issue.
The Department of Health and Children (DoHC) published a strategy for obesity in 2005 which identified children and young people as a vulnerable, at-risk group. Both safefood and the HSE recognise the growing trend towards obesity, physical inactivity and unhealthy dietary habits in Ireland. Both organisations have been actively engaged in addressing the obesity epidemic. A number of initiatives targeted at school-aged children have already been established. These include the ‘Little Steps’ mass media campaign – a campaign aimed at supporting parents/guardians of children, as well as various school-based initiatives and relevant training programmes for health professionals.
safefood and the HSE are keen to ensure that our policies and programmes to address the wellbeing of children are based on robust, upto-date and accessible evidence. The National Children’s Food Survey (NCFS) was carried out by nutritional scientists at University College Cork and University College Dublin in 2005 and was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Following the launch of the preliminary findings, safefood and the HSE recognised the potential of this NCFS database and commissioned analysis specifically exploring the factors associated with a healthy weight and a healthy diet among Irish children. This initiative also meets the DoHC National Children’s Strategy goals of helping to ensure children’s lives are better understood through research.
The key finding that the home environment plays a central role in both children’s weight and diet highlights the need to support parents and guardians in providing a healthy lifestyle for their family. The NCFS results are relevant to those working in areas dealing with obesity, physical activity and food & nutrition - for example those working in government departments and healthcare bodies, professional bodies, non-governmental agencies, community groups, academia and industry. They are also of relevance to parents and guardians. Supporting children to develop their full potential where they live, learn and play remains one of our key priorities.