Monday 24 June 2019

'It will make parents accountable for their children's health' - calls made for pupils to be weighed in school

  • The Oireachtas committee on children continued discussions on childhood obesity yesterday
  • TD Anne Rabbitte says "early intervention" is key
Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Fianna Fail's spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs has called on the government to begin "normalising" the weighing of children in school as early intervention for childhood obesity.

At the Oireachtas Joint Committee meeting on children and youth affairs yesterday, Anne Rabbitte suggested weighing children in pre-schools to try tackle obesity.

The Committee has held eight meetings since March on tackling childhood obesity in Ireland, meeting with various sports bodies, healthy eating advocates and parents.

Ms Rabbitte said we should take away the stigma of weighing children and that creating a database will help monitor the issue.

"I’m talking about really early intervention here, where we’ve 97pc take up and more in the ECC sector of child and preschool, where we have a captured market, where we should normalise it," Ms Rabbitte said on Newstalk Breakfast this morning.

"It’s nothing wrong about weighing, we should take away the stigmatising of it. If we’re really serious about it, weighing children and weighing is part of one of the components in gathering the data. You cannot gather data and have a database without the weight measurement."

The Galway councillor explained that the information should be relayed back to parents.

"If you start early enough, if there are issues identified, when you’re doing it in a childcare setting where you can provide the information back to the parents about good eating and good exercise, you can work with the childcare workers in handing out that information.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson Anne Rabbitte
Fianna Fáil spokesperson Anne Rabbitte

"It’s about sending that information home. Yesterday the Department of Health talked about all the various strategies and really good objectives they’re doing there, but how are they communicating it? I don’t know where the actual entry point is."

She added that while many pre-schools are encouraging healthy eating, a "measured" approach will allow parents to be responsible for their children's health.

"They’re trying to encourage people with water, milk instead of fizzy drinks, this is what we do here," she said.

"That is going on but it has to be done regularly and I do think if you have a targeted measured approach it will make parents more accountable for their children’s health."

In March, it was revealed that 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.

Some 80,000 children and adolescents are believed to be clinically obese in Ireland.

A recent study found that morbid obesity among young Irish children is twice as high in disadvantaged schools.

The research, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in May, examined childhood obesity among more than 7,000 six-year-old and seven-year-old children across Ireland.

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