Children should be weighed and measured in schools to help tackle the rise in child obesity, according to weight loss expert Dr Eva Orsmond.
It comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that childhood obesity was now “one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.”
Between 1975 and 2016, the percentage of Irish five-year-olds classed as obese rose from 1.2% to 11.3% for boys and 10.1% for girls.
Meanwhile, WHO data on six to nine-year olds in Ireland between 2015 and 2017 classed 9% of boys and 5% of girls as obese.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Eva Orsmond said the coronavirus lockdown has made things worse – with children not going to school and being totally out of routine.
“We had a serious childhood obesity problem already before the lockdown – we are talking 20% to 25% of Irish children being overweight and obese,” she said.
“Obviously now thank God things are going back to normality but school holidays are also just around the corner and obviously children are going to be again out of the routine so I think it is important that we start looking at children’s weight as an important factor for their future.”
She said the UK has launched a National Child Measurement Programme and called on Ireland to follow suit.
“I think it is very important that we would set up something similar in Ireland,” she said
“I have been saying it for years because in my home country Finland I was weighed during my school years. It is basically part of the health check and it is totally normal – nobody thinks it is fat shaming or anything like that.
“It is just basically understanding whether the child is following the normal growth chart. I have already seen in my clinics, children at a very young age having fatty livers, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.”
She warned that people are not good judges of whether their own children are overweight – and encouraged parents to talk to their doctors and compare children to Ireland’s standardised growth chart.
“That is how you know what you are dealing with because, unfortunately, we have a lot lost the division of what a normal child looks like,” she said.
“We know from research that if a parent thinks a child is overweight, we actually know that most probably the child is already obese.
“We don’t remember how skinny children used to be normally because so many children and adults are overweight and obese that we think it is normal to have a little bit of a tummy and it is normal to have a little bit of that plumpness.
“But in reality, children should be quite skinny and agile and so on.
“Of course, over the last year and a half almost we have been concentrating on other things because there have been other threats, that is understandable, but I think it is important that we would go back now and really start addressing these other issues as well.”
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