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START public health campaign

Five year public health campaign to encourage a healthy weight in children on the island of Ireland

Maintaining a healthy weight in children is a major health challenge on the island of Ireland.

START was a public health campaign from safefood, the Departments of Health in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Healthy Ireland, the Health Service Executive and the Public Health Agency. It aimed to support and encourage parents to start making small daily changes to their children’s diet and lifestyle and in so doing, get them started on their way to a healthier life.

The campaign ran for 5 years from 2017 – 2022. It was a strategic initiative listed as actions in the Healthy Weight for Ireland 2016 – 2025 strategy and the Fitter Futures for All 2012 –2022 strategy in Northern Ireland.

START aimed to motivate and inspire parents to take the first step in improving their child’s health and to stick with those changes. It advocated taking small steps to eating healthier food and becoming more active, sleeping more and reducing screen time. Each phase of the campaign was co-created with parents through quantitative and qualitative research.

The campaign ran across TV, radio, outdoor, digital and social along side PR and direct marketing communications. Information, advice, expert videos and resources for parents can be found on and

The final evaluation of the full campaign (2017 – 2022) revealed statistically significant differences in 'eating behaviour changes' and 'consideration of changing eating behaviours' between those who saw the campaign and those who did not, indicating a correlation between seeing the START campaign and taking or considering taking these behaviour change actions*. 

The partnership between five health agencies on the island for a five-year campaign was unique and created a level of trust and understanding that will benefit future campaign work in this area.

*Source; Ipsos; safefood 2017-2022.  Annual survey based on face-to-face research conducted among parents across the island of Ireland   

START stakeholders explain the aim and outcomes of the campaign:

Big wins start with small changes TV and VOD ad:

Let's go easy on the treats TV and VOD ad:

Make a START by swapping sugary drinks VOD:

START hybrid parenting event in Tallaght Library:

START parenting webinar:

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor answers questions sent in by parents:

safefood research supported the START campaign with evidence-based insights including

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