PARENTS who are searching for help from the health service for their overweight or obese children are poorly catered for, nutritionists warned today.
Dietitian Richelle Flanagan, who is president of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, said there is a dearth of services despite child obesity now reaching epidemic levels.
There are just three child obesity prevention programmes for young people identified as being at risk across seven counties,
And there are only two treatment programmes across three counties, she said at the launch of the first Nourish Children Week.
Figures show that one in four primary school children- around 30,000- are now overweight or obese due to excessive calorie intake and lack of exercise.
Many children who are being referred to a programme in Temple St hospital have already developed serious medical problems as well as poor self-image.
Dr Sinead Murphy, consultant paediatrician in Temple Street hospital said the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased with alarming speed over the past 20 years across the world. It is now described as the global epidemic and major public health problem throughout Europe.
“Most worrying of all is the fact that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Europe, with body weight now the most prevalent childhood disease. The Irish government has no choice but to work to prevent and treat this ‘disease’ and tackle the ‘toxic environment’ that simultaneously restricts activity and stimulates higher calorie intake.”