Almost half of Irish adults will be obese by 2030 if childhood overweight and obesity are not tackled now, medical experts have warned.
There are currently 300,000 overweight and 100,000 obese children in Ireland at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, multiple cancers, and infertility in adulthood.
Consultant paediatrician at Temple St Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Dr Sinead Murphy, told the Oireachtas committee on health and children yesterday that not enough was being done to treat children with a serious weight problem.
“Investment in childhood overweight and obesity community and hospital bases’ services is patchy and wholly inadequate and, if it remains this way, 47% of adults living in Ireland will be obese by 2030,” she warned.
Dr Murphy said research showed that sustainable weight reduction was extremely difficult in adults who were obese but that the right programme could achieve sustainable weight reduction and improved heart health in children.
“State expenditure on treating the childhood overweight and obesity pandemic is close to zero but there are potential, evidence-based solutions to this problem,” she said.
If a child with potential fatal obesity levels is left untreated, it costs the State about €5,000 a year to tackle the associated diseases and conditions.
Effective weight-reducing programmes cost about €600 a year.
Dr Murphy, who leads a childhood obesity programme at Temple St, said evidence showed weight loss was sustained so the cost was not a recurring one.
Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute dietitian and president Richelle Flanagan, who also addressed the committee, said treatment needed to be available for all children at both community level and in a hospital setting.
“We need specialised multi-disciplinary treatment available to address the current crisis of childhood obesity and its co-morbidities,” she said.
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