Tuesday 20 November 2018

Taking responsibility for childhood obesity

The number of Irish children classed as obese continues to soar
The number of Irish children classed as obese continues to soar

Straight Talking - Darragh Clifford

A government budget is never going to be universally welcomed, and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe's budget last week was no different.

But one small aspect of Budget 2018 which should be welcomed with open arms is the introduction of a 'sugar tax' on sugar-sweetened drinks, which works out at around 60c on a 2-litre bottle.

This tax has been a long time coming, which is disgraceful given the constant warnings on childhood obesity. Only last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the number of Irish children classed as obese continues to soar. We live in a society where primary school pupils with 40-inch waists are not that uncommon.

The WHO has urged governments around the world to tackle the global food giants that market and sell these sugary drinks. Often, these companies use marketing tactics that specifically target children.

Professor Donal O'Shea, the Clinical Lead for Obesity with the HSE, believes it is often children from lower socio-economic groups that are more susceptible to these marketing tactics.

Speaking in the Sunday Independent last weekend, he said: 'It's a class issue and that has not been addressed. The food and drinks industry is very good at targeting people who are more vulnerable in that environment.'

Prof O'Shea believes that government intervention is essential to tackling the epidemic. And while he is absolutely right in saying that our government must act fast, we should not be sitting back in the hope that a permanent fix will come from Leinster House.

Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children do not have access to these sugary products.

Firstly, as responsible adults we should be leading by example. Don't want your children eating and drinking junk? Then don't let them see you doing likewise.

Then, show your children from as early as possible the value of cooking fresh meals on a daily basis. Don't wait for them to start school to get their education about healthy eating.

And don't wait for our government to implement a childhood obesity strategy that is years in the making.

By then, it might be too late for your child.

Enniscorthy Guardian