Whole systems approach to childhood obesity
Obesity is a major public health issue in both Northern Ireland and Ireland. Obesity levels remain high among adults and children and there is a strong social gradient whereby the incidence of obesity tends to fall as socioeconomic status increases. The rates of obesity have stabilised among children at a population level but are still rising among the socially disadvantaged. Those involved in the implementation of obesity policy in both jurisdictions are reviewing the current approaches to tackling the issue and are considering different approaches. A whole systems approach is one promising approach and safefood commissioned a review of the literature on whole systems approaches to childhood obesity internationally to support decision making and inform future whole system approach interventions on the island. The review is one of the elements of a project entitled “Public Acceptability of obesity interventions on the island of Ireland”.
The commissioning of this review by safefood was supported by the Departments of Health in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. The review builds on the ongoing work in relation to the development of whole systems approaches, for example the reference to the requirement for whole systems approaches to end childhood obesity in the healthy weight for children framework, and the Sláintecare Healthy Communities Programme to provide increased health and wellbeing services in 19 community areas across Ireland. In addition, Sport Ireland have commenced an Active Cities Initiative which takes a systems approach to improving physical activity, based on the principles of the Global Action Plan for Physical Activity, developed by the World Health Organisation. Also available to support the development of whole systems approaches is a guide and set of resources that can be used to support the implementation of a whole systems approach to obesity that has been published by Public Health England.
The focus of the review is on interventions that take a whole systems approach with a primary aim of addressing childhood obesity. The report identifies the learnings, the facilitators and the barriers. The report also considers the obesity policy context in Ireland and Northern Ireland as a basis for the further development of whole systems approaches. It is intended to support policy makers and local decision makers to progress whole systems approaches to childhood obesity in both jurisdictions.