Call to weigh children in school to tackle obesity

Call to weigh children in school to tackle obesity

Weighing children in a school setting should become the norm according to Fianna Fáil's Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs.

Height and weight assessments have been introduced as part of the under-6's GP scheme.

The Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs have today been discussing tackling childhood obesity.

Fianna Fáil's Anne Rabbitte says a database is needed to monitor the problem.

"The norm I talk about is the setting because with the other representatives we had in from the various teaching unions and stuff like that, they spoke about the stigmatisation, the bullying aspect.

"I believe if the normalisation starts at the early intervention years, it's just normal, it's part of the data. It's the collection of it, it's no different."

Meanwhile, the Department of Education says it has no intention to ban schools from having vending machines.

It was revealed that 27% of secondary schools have vending machines, with many using them to supplement their income.

Chair of the Committee, Senator Catherine Noone did not accept the Department's position that it was a matter for individual schools to decide.

"Why is it a matter for the boards' management, in all fairness?" she said.

"The Department doesn't let them teach whatever curriculum thay want on different subjects.

"I think it's a really good policy, healthy policy for us to have.

"Please go away and think about this as a policy that we should implement in our schools."

It comes as research was highlighted during the UN General Assembly in New York showing that a 5% reduction in children’s body mass index (BMI) in Ireland would reduce the cost of obesity by almost a quarter.

A paper launched by the World Obesity Federation and the World Health Organisation during the Assembly stated that the total lifetime financial cost of child obesity here could be cut by €1.1 billion from a current estimated total of over €4.5 billion, which is 1.6% of our GDP.

The Irish Heart Foundation has today called for sugar tax revenues to be ringfenced in the Budget to fight child obesity

"These figures clearly demonstrate that any notion that Ireland can’t afford to tackle its obesity crisis is simply wrong," said Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey.

"From an economic standpoint, as well as the human toll of the estimated 85,000 children living on the island today who will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity, we can’t afford not to tackle it.

"Last year investment in obesity prevention initiatives by the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Division totalled just €2.7 million – or just over €10 for every Irish schoolchild the World Obesity Federation says will be overweight or obese in Ireland by 2025.

"Meanwhile no funding has been allocated to implement the national obesity action plan since it was launched two years ago.

This is a drop in the ocean of what’s really needed to tackle the crisis and it’s crucial that the €40 million that the Department of Finance expects to raise each year on the sugar sweetened drinks levy is now ringfenced to promote health and tackle obesity among children as is the case in the UK.

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