Weigh every child in their school - 'Transformation' star Kathryn
An annual "weigh-in" of all pupils should be conducted in Irish schools to crack down on childhood obesity, Operation Transformation presenter Kathryn Thomas has urged.
Following a successful campaign to introduce calorie counts on restaurant menus, the RTE star and fitness fanatic has set her sights on primary and secondary schools, declaring that all youngsters should undergo full health assessments. Part of that examination should include checking their weight, she says.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, she said: "The responsibility for the obesity crisis has to start at home, but I think schools can be instrumental in developing good habits.
"Introducing health checks, where children are weighed every year at the end of term is important. It means parents can be made aware if there is a problem, because a lot of parents are in denial."
Her comments come as studies show one in four Irish children are now overweight or obese. Last year, Ireland's only dedicated childhood obesity treatment programme, at Temple Street Children's Hospital, reported a 400pc increase in referrals of children under five years.
"Our 'Know Your Numbers' campaign was successful because it made people look at themselves. We have become so used to seeing people who are overweight and thinking it is normal. It's about getting the tape measure out, getting on the weighing scales, checking your BMI, and at least you know your number. You know where to start from. It's the same for kids as well," said Kathryn.
The presenter and fitness enthusiast was speaking at the programme's 5km walk and run in the Phoenix Park yesterday morning.
She believes Ireland needs to wake up and start taking the obesity epidemic seriously: "When you hear the World Health Organization (WHO) saying we are on track to become the fattest country in Europe, it is shocking. And the situation is getting worse all the time.
"We campaigned hard for four years to get calorie content on menus. Even my boyfriend, who is a restaurateur and was slow to take up the idea at first, can now see the benefits and the need for it."
Meanwhile, fitness guru, Karl Henry echoed her call
"People have to be weighed. I don't get the argument that 'oh we can't weigh teenagers'. Why not? Why can't you weigh them? Granted, there are other issues in terms of eating disorders, but I think in the same sentence, we need to know our weight. We need to know what we are.
"I think every year, you should be tested. You should know what you are, what your fitness level is. Every year. And if you get fitter, you should get bonus points in your Leaving Cert for that. Certainly for me, first year in secondary school upwards, 13, 14, is when it should start."
He added: "There is no doubt we have an obesity problem. You see it on the streets, you see it in schools, and there is not enough being done to solve it. I think Operation Transformation is at the forefront of that."
Since beginning eight years ago, the programme has gone from strength to strength, consistently bringing in an average of half a million viewers on RTÉ 1, while the Operation Transformation website has had over five million page views for the current series alone.
Yesterday, 5,000 people took part in the 'get fit' day out in Dublin, while 3,000 participants ran, walked or jogged in Cork.