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20th Jun 2024

One in five primary school children at risk of obesity, study finds

Niamh Ryan

A nationwide survey found that obesity levels in primary schools are on the rise.

In the average class of 30 children, six are considered to be overweight or obese.

The HSE commissioned the research, and has been tracking data since 2008 as part of the WHO Europe Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative.

The study found that girls are more likely to be overweight compared to their male peers. Older children are currently more at risk of obesity rather than younger children.

The national lead for the HSE’s Healthy Eating Active Living Programme, Sarah O’Brien, made a statement on the issue:

“Healthy weight for all children is important because we know that for many the consequences of childhood overweight and obesity can be lifelong, affecting their quality of life and health both now and in the future.”

According to Healthline, children who are obese are art risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.

Family history may cause childhood obesity in some cases. However, it is mainly due to a poor diet and lack of exercise.

O’Brien said that the level of obesity in children in disadvantaged areas is concerning.

“We need to act now to improve the health and wellbeing of all children by ensuring all children have easy access to affordable healthy food and physical activity opportunities.”

The survey also found that many schools don’t have an adequate supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for children.

The Department of Health have acknowledged that more work needs to be done to curb the issue in schools.

Professor Cecily Kelleher, who led the research team, said this:

“We know that childhood obesity is largely preventable through effective policies that can intervene early to create environments and behaviours that support healthy growth and development for all children.”