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Obesity is a complex problem, Mr Myers

I WOULD agree with Kevin Myers (Irish Independent, April 19) that the discussion about childhood obesity deserves a level of frankness it doesn’t receive. Let’s accept that we are eating more and being less physically active than we were decades ago. Undoubtedly, this has contributed to the significant increase in the prevalence of obesity in children and adults.

The population is heavier because the environment has become more “obesogenic”. But why are some people more prone to the detrimental effects of that environment than others? The realisation is growing, at least in the scientific community, that obesity is a complex neurobehavioural disorder influenced by environmental and genetic factors.

Mr Myers’s solution to the problem would seem to be to choose your parents wisely. His assertion that “mothers are largely responsible for the obesity epidemic amongst our children” is like saying that the recession has been caused by people spending too much money on houses. In a sense it is true but it doesn’t do anything to help affected individuals. Factors as diverse as junk-food advertising and suboptimal town planning have contributed to childhood obesity.

Of course, parents have a fundamentally important role in determining the health of their children. But what parent would choose for their child to be fat? And what child would choose to be fat? Mr Myers’s article will have done nothing to ease the burden of social isolation and emotional frustration he attributes to obesity. And what does it say of a man who says he loathes the face of any child “without chins or jaws or cheekbones”?

We need to do something about the obesity epidemic. We need to educate children and their parents about healthy food choices. We need to consider whether current food advertising practices are having a negative impact on our children’s health and to what extent we’re willing to put their health at stake for multinational profits.

We need a debate about taxing junk food. We also need to facilitate greater levels of physical activity. The solution to the obesity crisis starts with the individual at home making healthy lifestyle choices but political, social and economic factors need to be considered also. Parodying fat people in the media because their appearance is felt to be distasteful is wholly unacceptable.

The views and opinions expressed in this letter are my own and do not represent those of the Health Service Executive, Galway University Hospitals or the National University of Ireland, Galway.






New name won’t repair ESB’s poor image

RENAMING the ESB as Electric Ireland will not change its poor image, with a CEO earning €750,000 per annum and an average salary for other ESB workers of €95,000. With 2,500 households being disconnected for non-payment of bills every month, how can these salaries be justified?

If Electric Ireland is privatised, all workers will find out exactly what they are worth. And that will be one hell of a shock.