Tuesday 16 October 2018

Children facing two-year wait to see obesity specialists

Around 80,000 children and adolescents are now clinically obese in Ireland. Stock Image
Around 80,000 children and adolescents are now clinically obese in Ireland. Stock Image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Children who need therapy for obesity are facing a two-year wait to be seen in the country's only multidisciplinary clinic in Temple Street Children's Hospital.

Around 80,000 children and adolescents are now clinically obese in Ireland.

But the Temple Street service cannot cope with demand and the waiting time to be seen is well over two years.

There is still a stigma against these children within some sections of the health service.

The young people can end up suffering severe bullying due to their weight problems, and some are self-harming.

Temple Street's clinical lead in weight management, Dr Grace O'Malley, said: "Sixty per cent of children with clinical and morbid obesity have psychological difficulties such as poor self-esteem and depression.

"We approach this issue from the perspective that family re-education and support is an essential element in changing eating and exercise patterns," she added.

Around 40pc of the children already have risk factors for heart disease, and 17pc have metabolic syndrome, a combination of blood pressure and diabetes.

One teenager who had diabetes risked losing the sight in one eye as a result of the disease.

Homelessness is making the crisis even worse, according to doctors from the Dublin hospital. They said that in the last few weeks, five youngsters who are homeless came for treatment.

"They would have working parents but no cooking facilities," said the team led by Dr O'Malley.

Children may have developed the habit of hoarding or hiding food.

Other children are afraid to go outside playing, and are missing out on exercise because their neighbourhoods are not safe.

Irish Independent

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