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Minister Launches Bereavement Children Support Network

Between 36,000 and 60,000 Irish children could have experienced a significant bereavement, according to the sponsors of a new network supporting professionals and organisations working with them.

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The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network was launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald at the headquarters of the Irish Hospice Foundation, which will host and pay for it for the next two years.

The 32-county network is an information-sharing hub for those working with bereaved children, young people and their families.

It said it wants to facilitate easy access for professionals to a choice of high-quality local and national services for the bereft, such as guidance and support to enable children to manage the impact of death and the loss in their lives.

While no official figures for childhood bereavement exist in Ireland, the network estimates that last year 3,360 16-year-olds may have experienced the death of one or both parents and a similar number may have lost a sibling.

Bríd Carroll, a counsellor at Family Life Services in Wexford, who did a ground-breaking study of existing services, said her organisation had experienced a 50% leap in demand for help in the past year.

Ms Carroll said boys, who were more likely to suppress emotions surrounding bereavement, are now seeking advice on the changes bereavement brings to their lives.

She also said that a lot of social workers and psychologists in the statutory services are over-stretched and that in some parts of the country, families are forced to wait six months for services.

Minister Fitzgerald said she had recently allocated an extra €3m to counselling services, which includes bereavement counselling.

Courtesy of RTE News.

Ireland Heads For US Mega Obesity Rates

Ireland is now on track to match US rates of gross obesity, the results of the latest Irishhealth.com online poll indicate. In total, seven in ten respondents described themselves as being overweight.

In a clear indication of the scale of Ireland’s obesity epidemic, some 29% of all respondents categorised themselves as having a serious weight problem, with 24% describing themselves as ‘very overweight’ (obese) and a further 5% describing themselves as ‘morbidly obese’.

The medical term morbid obesity describes people with a BMI (body mass index) of more than 40. This is regarded as a life-threatening condition.

Commenting on the findings of this new survey, Dr O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist at Loughlinstown and St Vincent’s Hospitals, Dublin, said that while the Irishhealth.com poll would generally accurately reflect the most recent official figures on overweight and obesity in Ireland, these results indicated that more people appear to be entering the dangerous ‘morbidly obese’ category.

Just one in four respondents described their own current weight as ‘normal’, indicating just how profoundly overweight and obesity is impacting on Irish society. Only one in 25 respondents (4%) described themselves as ‘underweight’.

“This costs a vast amount to the individual personally and the health service financially”, Dr O’Shea commented. “If the 5% self-assessed as morbidly obese is accurate, then we have joined the US in terms of the extent of the problem at the higher end”.

Dr O’Shea pointed out that usually, self-reporting surveys tend to in fact significantly underestimate people’s weight problems. “I would hope that is not the case here,” he added.

A major Department of Health-sponsored SLAN survey in 2008 found that more than one-third of respondents reported themselves as being overweight and 14% reported being obese.

OECD figures for Ireland published last week showed that Ireland’s obesity rate is higher than the OECD average. Obesity increases the risk of a range of other conditions, from arthritis to some cancers, diabetes, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver and risks undergoing surgery. Children born to obese mothers are at a heightened risk of dying by the age of 12 months.

Obesity levels in Ireland have risen dramatically in the last 20 years. In 1990, only one in 10 Irish men were obese; that figure is now officially put at one in four. In the same period, obesity in women has risen from 13% to 21%, according to the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA).

Ironically, the effect of the Government’s recent reduction of VAT rates on certain items means that junk food is now cheaper than ever, representing the double blow of a loss to the Exchequer in VAT revenues and an even greater financial burden of future ill health arising from continued chronic overconsumption of cheap processed foods that are high in fats, sugars and salt.

Courtesy of IrishHealth.com