Obesity Epidemic "Astronomical"

One of the biggest health stories of the year has been the rise in obesity among both adults and children in the U.S. We’ve all heard so much about the “obesity epidemic” that it’s easy to think the story is being blown out of proportion. After all, people putting on a few pounds may not seem to warrant the proclamation of a national emergency.

But while obesity may not be the Black Death, it is a severe public health crisis. Experts agree that as more and more obese children become obese adults, the diseases associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, and especially diabetes will surge. That will mean a lot of sick people.

According to Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University, the costs of these illnesses will be “astronomical.”

James O. Hill, PhD, agrees. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, claims that at the rate we’re going, obesity-related diabetes alone “will break the bank of our healthcare system.”

So one has to wonder how obesity got so out of control that we reached this crisis. And more importantly, how do we stop it?

The Causes

So what’s causing the epidemic? Not surprisingly, everyone agrees that it stems from two things: eating too much and exercising too little. The differences are in the specifics.

Although people may toss around the idea of genetics in obesity, genes can’t really explain what’s happening, Hill says. While a person may have a genetic predisposition toward a certain body type, the fact that each succeeding generation is heavier than the last proves that changes in our environment are playing the key role.

Hill believes the culprit may be a decrease in our physical activity, arguing that because of shifts in how we live and work, we don’t get as much exercise as previous generations did.

Nestle agrees that exercise is important, but she lays more stress on eating habits. In her book Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Nestle argues that recommendations about healthy eating are overwhelmed by the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of advertising for junk foods that we’re subjected to at home and even in public schools. And as fast food companies and chains compete with one another by increasing portion sizes, our waists are increasing proportionately

The Numbers

Despite the new attention paid to obesity by doctors, researchers, and the media, no discernable progress has been made in fighting obesity. According to most experts, it looks almost certain that obesity will get worse before it gets better.

Cynthia Ogden, PhD, a CDC epidemiologist, published the results of a study of weight in the United States that she conducted with other experts. The results were startling: 31% of adults are obese and 15% of children and teenagers age 6-19 are overweight. The proportion of obese people has been growing steadily for the last few decades. Although Ogden stresses that obesity is a problem for all groups and genders, it is particularly severe among certain ethnic groups. For instance, 50% of all non-Hispanic black women are obese.

Did Ogden see anything promising in the results of the study about obesity in the U.S.? “I didn’t see any hopeful signs,” she says.

Conflicting Recommendations

The seemingly contradictory reports in the media about what people should and shouldn’t be eating almost certainly don’t help things. For instance, proponents of protein diets argue that all of the accepted wisdom about eating a low-fat diet is wrong. Most experts don’t agree with them, but protein diets are being evaluated in studies now.

Where mainstream nutritionists and protein diet proponents agree is that the low-fat recommendations of the 1990s didn’t quite work. “People took the low-fat message and decided that it meant that as long as they ate things that were low-fat, they could eat as much as they wanted,” says William Dietz, MD, PhD, the director of the division of nutrition and physical activity in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC. That isn’t the case, since calories add up, no matter what form they come in. Even worse, many of the low-fat snacks that companies developed actually had higher calories than their regular-fat equivalents, Dietz observes.

According to Nestle, the media also have a tendency of confusing things by reporting the results of scientific studies out of context. She argues that the relative stability of the dietary and fitness recommendations over the years — eat less fat and more fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly — is obscured by the media, which are more interested in exciting stories about radical diets or the effects of particular “miracle” foods or vitamins.

Surgical Options

An increasingly common treatment for severe obesity is bariatric surgery, such as “stomach stapling” in which the size of the stomach is surgically reduced. It’s gotten a high profile as some obese celebrities and public figures have undergone the procedure with dramatic results. It’s even becoming more common among teenagers. While bariatric surgery is necessary and life-saving in some cases, is it a reasonable treatment for obesity in America?

“Surgery is an effective last resort,” says Dietz, “and many people are so obese, with a body mass index over 40, that they’re at the last resort stage.”

However, if obesity continues to worsen, so many people will require surgery that it will become impossible to operate on all of them. “It’s difficult for me to see how we’ll be able or willing to perform surgery on 100 million Americans,” says Hill. Instead, the only real answer is in preventing people from getting to the point of surgery in the first place.

The Problems With Prevention

As with other public health campaigns, such as the efforts to get people to stop smoking or to practice safe sex, results of the campaign against obesity will come gradually. But Dietz sees reason for hope.

“I think that in the last three years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the attitudes of policy makers toward obesity,” Dietz tells WebMD. “There is now a huge amount of attention being paid to the condition,” he says, and that’s an important first step.

But analogies to other public health efforts can only go so far, and obesity looks to be a difficult opponent. “Personally, I think that obesity may be the toughest social issue that we have ever faced,” says Hill, “even more so than smoking.”

Part of the problem is that the message about eating well is necessarily more complicated than the messages of other health campaigns. The recommendations for preventing tobacco-related illnesses are pretty straightforward: Don’t smoke. But given that “don’t eat” is not an option, there isn’t such a concise recommendation for eating well and staying fit. It’s more like, “Eat plenty of these, and not so much of that or those, and remember to exercise a lot.”

And despite the increasing amount of attention paid to obesity in the media, recognizing and talking about it is difficult. Obesity can be a sensitive subject to discuss, given how stigmatized overweight people can feel. While no one would take offense if her doctor said she had high blood pressure or heart disease, she might very well be offended if her doctor said she was obese, since the word can sound like a moral as well as a medical judgment. According to anecdotal evidence, Dietz says that even people with severe obesity tend to think of the word as applying only to people much heavier than they are.

“I think that the American public still views obesity as a cosmetic problem,” says Dietz. “The challenge is to get the public to recognize that this is a health problem and it’s one that they can do something about.” He also stresses that we need to come up with a different way of talking about obesity that won’t make people feel stigmatized.

Defeating Obesity

While it would be swell if every American woke up tomorrow and decided to exercise regularly and eat healthily, it’s not going to happen and it’s not that simple. “The trend in overweight is related to a lot of cultural, economic, and environmental factors,” says Ogden, “and we need to work together to figure out what to do about it.”

“The focus needs to be on environmental and policy solutions rather than individual behavior change,” says Dietz. “Because it’s changes in the environment that caused this problem and it’s changes in the environment that will solve it.”

The campaign against obesity will have to be massive, and it will have many fronts on a local and national level. Doctors need new ways to talk to their patients about obesity, says Dietz, and schools need new programs to encourage physical activity. Restaurants and fast food chains need to be encouraged to develop healthier foods. Nestle argues that concerned parents should try to reduce the amount of food advertising that their children are subjected to, and, if necessary, to lobby against school systems that serve soft drinks and fast food for lunch.

Dietz believes that beating obesity may even require a recasting of our entire healthcare system, since obesity needs to be prevented rather than treated after it happens. “We can’t afford to treat obesity and its consequences,” Dietz says. “So this begs the question whether it’s time to move from a disease-care system to a real healthcare system.”

Although all of these changes may seem radical, Dietz believes that they may be necessary to stop a potential health catastrophe. “We can’t afford to think in traditional terms about obesity,” he says.

What Should I Do?

While the news about preventing and treating obesity on a national scale may be depressing, it’s important not to confuse a national health problem with your own, individual efforts to lose weight and live a more healthy life. While changing society may be tricky, changing yourself is considerably easier.

For instance, many people are able to lose weight and keep it off successfully, and even small reductions in weight can significantly decrease your health risks. Much of Hill’s research has focused on the National Weight Loss Registry in Colorado, which Hill co-founded, that tracks the progress and habits of people who have lost weight and kept it off.

Hill reports that while people in the registry lost weight on all sorts of different diets, including protein diets, they tended to shift to a low-fat and high carbohydrate diet to maintain their weight loss. And on average, they exercised every day. While Hill stresses that most registry members say it wasn’t easy, they almost uniformly believe that losing weight was worth the sacrifices.

So rather than get overwhelmed by depressing statistics or confused by competing theories of how to lose weight, it may be best to stick to the established recommendations about eating well and exercising regularly. Doing what you can might make a big difference.

Courtesy of WebMD.com

5 A DAY and your family

Do you cook and shop for a family household, including a fussy eater or two?

It’s easier than you might think to ensure everyone gets five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. There are many ways to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet. The wider the variety of fruit and vegetables you eat the better. Dietitian Azmina Govindji gives a few simple tips and ideas to get you started.

Fruit and veg throughout the day

There are plenty of 5 A DAY opportunities throughout your family’s day.

“Not all those opportunities are immediately obvious,” says Azmina. “A cooked breakfast, for example, can give you several portions if you have grilled mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and a glass of unsweetened 100% fruit juice.”

Azmina highlights some other 5 A DAY opportunities:

Breakfast – if you have cereal or porridge for breakfast, add some fruit, such as sliced bananas, strawberries or sultanas.
Morning break at school – all children aged between four and six at Local Education Authority-maintained schools are entitled to one free piece of fruit or vegetable a day, which is usually given out at break time. If your child is older, you could send them to school with a piece of fruit to eat at break time. The School Food Regulations ensure that fruit or vegetables are provided at all school food outlets, including breakfast clubs, tuck shops and vending machines.
Lunchtime at school – a school lunch provides your child with a portion of fruit and a portion of vegetables. If you give your child a packed lunch, there are many ways you can add fruit and vegetables. Dried fruit counts towards their 5 A DAY, so why not try a handful of sultanas or a few dried apricots? Put salad in their sandwiches, or give them carrot or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, satsumas or seedless grapes. A lot of swapping goes on at lunch, so talk to other parents to see if you can all give your children at least one portion.
On the way home from school – at home time, kids are often very hungry. Take this opportunity to give them a fruit or vegetable snack. This could be a small handful of dried fruit, a banana, a pear, clementines or carrot sticks. When they’re really hungry, this can be a good time to get them to try foods they might otherwise refuse.
Dinner time – get into the habit of having two different vegetables on the dinner table. You don’t have to insist that the children eat them, but if you always do, they may end up trying them. Vegetables in dishes such as stews and casseroles also count. Avoid adding extra fat, salt and sugar, and use lean cuts of meat.

Plan 5 A DAY snacks

When it comes to snacks, it pays to plan ahead. “Think about times when snacking happens in your family,” says Azmina. “Then think what you can do to replace your usual snack with fruit or vegetables.”

Making fruit and veg easy to get to is often helpful. When they’re peckish, children will often reach for whatever is closest to hand. Keep a fruit bowl in the living room. Encourage your children to snack from the bowl rather than hunting for snacks in the kitchen. Keep fruit washed and ready to eat in the fridge. They’ll be more tempting when you fancy an instant snack.
Similarly, keep snack-ready vegetables in the fridge, too. Wash and cut up carrots or celery. Family days out are prime snacking time. Save money by taking small bags of dried fruit, bananas or carrot, celery or pepper sticks with you instead of buying expensive snacks once you’re out.

Get children involved in 5 A DAY
Getting your child involved in choosing and preparing fruit and vegetables can encourage them to eat more. “Familiarise young children with the colours and shapes of fruits and vegetables as early as possible,” says Azmina.

“Each weekly shop, let them choose a fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. Supervise your child in the kitchen while they help you prepare it.”

Present your children with as wide a variety of fruit and vegetables as possible and make eating them a normal part of family life.

“If your children aren’t keen, canned vegetables, such as sweetcorn, lentils and peas, can be a good place to start,” says Azmina. Choose canned vegetables in water with no added sugar, and canned fruit in natural fruit juice, rather than syrup.

Disguising vegetables, by grating carrots into bolognese sauce, for example, can also work, but don’t rely solely on this.

“Try not to reinforce the idea that vegetables are unpleasant and always need to be hidden in foods. Instead, have fun together by trying lots of different fruit and veg and finding what your children like.”

Courtesy of NHS Choices

Inactivity 'kills more than obesity'

A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests. University of Cambridge researchers said about 676,000 deaths each year were down to inactivity, compared with 337,000 from carrying too much weight. They concluded that getting everyone to do at least 20 minutes of brisk walking a day would have substantial benefits. Experts said exercise was beneficial for people of any weight. Obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand.

However, it is known that thin people have a higher risk of health problems if they are inactive. And obese people who exercise are in better health than those that do not. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, attempted to tease out the relative dangers of inactivity and obesity.

Obese v inactive
Researchers followed 334,161 Europeans for 12 years. They assessed exercise levels and waistlines and recorded every death. “The greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people,” one of the researchers, Prof Ulf Ekelund told BBC News. He said eliminating inactivity in Europe would cut mortality rates by nearly 7.5%, or 676,000 deaths, but eliminating obesity would cut rates by just 3.6%. Prof Ekelund added: “But I don’t think it’s a case of one or the other. We should also strive to reduce obesity, but I do think physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy.”

Prof Ekelund, who is based in Norway, is into cross country skiing and clocks up at least five hours of vigorous exercise each week. However, he says all it would need to transform health, is brisk walking.

“I think people need to consider their 24-hour day. Twenty minutes of physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk, should be possible for most people to include on their way to or from work, or on lunch breaks, or in the evening instead of watching TV.”

Tackle Both
The diseases caused by inactivity and obesity were largely the same, such as cardiovascular disease. However, type 2 diabetes was more common with obesity. Commenting on the findings, Barbara Dinsdale, from the charity Heart Research UK, said: “This study once again reinforces the importance of being physically active, even when carrying excess weight.

“Changing your lifestyle is all good news for heart health, but physical activity is always easier to achieve and maintain without carrying the extra ‘body baggage’ of too much weight.”

Prof John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said changes were needed to make exercise easier.

“We need substantial investment in cycling infrastructure to make our streets safer. If more people cycled or walked to work or school, it would make a big difference in raising levels of physical activity.”

Courtesy of BBC News

Early death risk reduced by 20-minute daily walk

Lack of exercise leaves a person at greater risk of early death than does being obese, according to a study published this evening. And it could take little more than a daily 20-minute walk to reduce the death toll due to inactivity. A huge study of more than 334,000 European men and women showed that twice as many deaths were connected with lack of physical activity compared to being obese.

The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society have for years pointed out the value of exercise as a way to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. This study led by Prof Ulf Ekelund of the University of Cambridge seems to underpin the value of this advice. The research aim was to measure the link between physical inactivity and premature death, while also assessing its interaction with obesity. The 334,161 men and women involved are participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study. The researchers measured these individuals’ height, weight and waist circumference over a 12-year period and also asked them about their levels of physical activity. The results are published this evening in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers found the greatest reduction in risk was between inactive and moderately inactive groups. Almost a quarter of the cohort were inactive with no recreational activity and a sedentary job.

A daily 20-minute brisk walk was enough to lift this inactive group into the lower risk moderately inactive group. This reduced their risk from premature death by between 16-30 per cent.
“This isn’t surprising,” said Maureen Mulvihill, head of health promotion at the Irish Heart Foundation. Lack of exercise ranks fourth for risk of death behind high blood pressure, smoking and blood glucose levels and ahead of obesity, she said.

“Also more people are inactive than obese with 23 per cent of people in Ireland obese but more than 50 per cent inactive, she said. The Foundation recommends people take between 150 and 300 minutes a week of moderately intensive activity. This includes walking, gardening, cycling, climbing stairs or dancing. There is no need to be heavily into running or other sports to achieve these levels.
“The take home message is get up and get moving and all activity has a health benefit,” Ms Mulvihill said. It will reduce risk of heart disease by 30 per cent and the reduction in stroke risk is even higher, she added.

Exercise also helps reduce cancer risks, said Kevin O’Hagan, health promotion manager at the Irish Cancer Society. “There is clear evidence to tell us that physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of breast, bowel and womb cancer. It may also help prevent lung cancer,” he said. Being physically active along with eating a healthy diet and not smoking can help reduce the risk of cancer by up to 50 per cent, he added. It is estimated that 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity offers the greatest protection against cancer.

Courtesy of Irish Times

80,000 need surgery to tackle morbid obesity

UP to 80,000 people are now morbidly obese and in need of surgery, a health expert has warned.

An estimated 2pc of the population have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40, significantly higher than the optimal scale of between 18.5 and 25, and placing them firmly in the morbidly obese category.

Now a specialist is calling for more bariatric surgeries — operations including fitting gastric bands and stomach reductions — to be carried out in a bid to cut the mounting cost to the taxpayer.

Dr Francis Finucane, a consultant endocrinologist who specialises in obesity, said carrying out more such surgeries could cut costs significantly.

He compared the problem to the obesity problems being faced in England, after a report in 2010 there found that offering bariatric surgeries to 25pc of those eligible would save the government £1.3bn (€1.56bn) over three years.

This was achieved by patients returning to work and a drop in benefits being paid out.

“The prevalence of obesity in Ireland is pretty much the same as in England and the costs associated with it would be similar. We can’t afford not to provide this intervention,” Dr Finucane said.

Only two public hospitals in Ireland provide such services, — the national unit at St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Dublin; and Galway University Hospital.

As the demand for bariatric surgery increases, patients are now waiting up to two years. Dr Finucane works at the Galway clinic, which carried out 40 operations on morbidly obese patients last year and 100 over the past three years.

While the operations are publicly funded, Dr Finucane said they offer significant savings to the State by reducing long-term health problems and allowing patients to return to work. He now wants to see more emphasis placed on such surgeries to deal with the backlog.

“We are getting busier and referral rates are up, there is a two-year waiting list for surgery here at present,” he said.

Dr Finucane will be speaking at an obesity conference being held at NUI, Galway, this week. ‘The Obesity Problem: Insights and analysis from economics, medicine and public health’, will also hear from Professor John Cawley from Cornell University, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on obesity and the economy..

The conference, on Friday, will also look at the extent of the obesity problem and the economic costs.

Courtesy of Caroline Crawford, Independant.ie

79% of over-50s obese or overweight - study

More than a third of over-50s in Ireland are obese, a major new report on ageing has revealed.

A further 44% are overweight, while problem drinking and reliance on multiple medications is also on the rise among older people.
Despite the obvious health risks, the over-50s generally report high levels of satisfaction with quality of life and their incomes have remained stable.

The findings are revealed in the latest report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), a national survey of more than 8,000 people aged 50 and over.

The study was led by researchers in Trinity College Dublin.

Participants were interviewed between April 2012 and January 2013, during, as researchers note, a period of considerable social and economic change in Ireland.

Minister for Health James Reilly said the latest report flags up serious concerns about the health of the over-50s.

“I am encouraged by some of the findings in this report, particularly those that show that, in general, the over-50s enjoy a good quality of life and report their health as excellent or very good,” he said.

“However, I am also struck by some worrying trends, particularly the levels of non-communicable diseases and their co-morbidities. The finding that 35% of the over-50s are obese with a further 44% overweight is another serious cause for concern.”

Obesity is strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes. The report also found about one third of the over-50s report low levels of physical activity, with more women than men reporting low exercise. More than half of those aged 75 and over have arthritis.

Smoking among over-50s is down from just over 18% to 16.5% since participants were last interviewed in 2009 and 2010. Problem drinking has risen for both men and women – from 17% to 22% in men and from 8% to 11% in women. Those taking five or more medications has increased from 21% to 26%.

Courtesy of RTE.ie

Ireland one of the worst countries for smoking, drinking and obesity: OECD report

Ireland ranks badly when compared to other countries for smoking, drinking, and obesity, the latest OECD “Health at a Glance” report shows.

The report highlights:

• Irish people consume more alcohol per capita than people in most of the OECD.

• Ireland has the highest proportion of adult smokers.

• Deaths due to cancer fell by almost 21 per cent, and deaths due to heart disease fell by 59.4pc between 1990 and 2011.

• Cardiovascular diseases – which include strokes – fell by over 54 per cent

• Life expectancy in Ireland is 80.6 years, beating the OECD average of 80.1 years.

• The life expectancy of an Irish person has increased by four years since 2000.

Obese Woman

The rise in obesity is a “major public health concern”, the report said. Some 23 per cent of Irish adults were obese in 2009, the report stated. Ireland ranked eighth on the list of all 34 OECD countries for this.

Despite the country’s poor ranking in relation to the number of smokers, the OECD report shows that the percentage of daily smokers dropped from 33 per cent in 1998 to 29 per cent in 2007. And Ireland came out as having the second biggest drop in health spending, after Greece, between 2009 and 2011. Health spending per capita here dropped by 6.6 per cent in those years. Cuts in health spending in OECD countries were reached by targeting hospital spending, cuts to wages and spending on prevention and public health.

The OECD has 34 member countries which include developed countries from around the world, as well as “emerging” countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey. Ireland ranked 14 on the list of OECD countries for suicide rates for 2009 – with 11.3 deaths per 100,000 population, OECD’s study shows.

Suicide figures were highest in Korea, the Russian Federation, Hungary, and Japan, at more than 19 deaths per 100,000 population.

Courtesy of Independant.ie

Safe Food Launches Campaign to take on Childhood Obesity

Monday 21 October, 2013. Parents are being urged to make practical changes to everyday lifestyle habits such as portion sizes, drinks and screen time to make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of children and combat the island’s high levels of childhood overweight and obesity. That was the message from safefood with the launch today of a new public health campaign to help parents take on childhood obesity.

The campaign will feature on television, radio, poster and point of sale advertising and includes a free booklet for parents that will be available nationwide in crèches, health centres, GP surgeries, and from public health nurses and local libraries.

Launching the campaign, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly TD said:

“Obesity presents a real clinical, social and financial challenge which will have a detrimental legacy lasting decades and which will undoubtedly lead Ireland to an unhealthy and extremely costly, if not unaffordable, future if action is not taken now. I want to encourage everybody to help create generations of healthy children who can enjoy their lives to the full and reach their full potential as they develop into adults by making healthier food choices, by being more active and taking the first steps towards reducing overweight and obesity.”

Speaking at the campaign launch, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald TD said “Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Europe and Ireland is one of the countries worst affected. The Growing Up in Ireland survey, 2011 which is funded by my Department found that 1 in 4 children as young as 3 years of age are overweight or obese. I particularly welcome this new campaign as it seeks to help parents with very practical tips and ideas for actions they can take. We know from research that tackling obesity in childhood requires a family-centred approach, that is part of a wide ranging multi-agency set of initiatives.”

The safefood campaign emphasises the importance of taking on practical changes for the whole family which are sustainable for the long term.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said: “We have based our campaign on strong feedback from parents that they wanted a solutions-based approach. For this phase we’re focusing on reducing portion sizes for children, replacing sugary drinks with water and being realistic about foods that ‘should be’ treat foods. While parents may be somewhat aware of the sugar levels in fizzy drinks, they may not be as aware of the sugar content in juice drinks and cordials, and research tells us they are regularly given to children at mealtimes. The sugar content of these drinks varies enormously and parents need to consider replacing these drinks with water instead”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan.

The three year, all island campaign by safefood in partnership with the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework in the Republic of Ireland and the ‘Fitter Futures for All’ Implementation Plan in Northern Ireland also reminds parents about the negative health impacts of excess weight in childhood and how this can impact on a child’s quality of life.

Dr Cate Hartigan, Head of Health Promotion and Improvement, HSE said “Parents want what is best for their children, however tackling overweight and obesity is a sensitive and difficult task. A fundamental goal of Healthy Ireland is supporting people to enjoy a healthy and active life. This campaign helps make this a reality by motivating and supporting parents to make healthier choices for their children, and by raising awareness and knowledge among health professionals.”

Chair of the safefood Advisory Board, Ms Lynn Ní Bhaoighealláin said

“We all want children to have a bright future and we get them into all sorts of healthy habits, like brushing their teeth or crossing the road safely. This campaign is about supporting parents in making small changes in their everyday family lives.”

At present, approximately 1 in 4 primary school children are overweight or obese. The prevalence of excess weight is also beginning earlier in childhood, with currently 6% of 3 year olds being obese.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Lead for the W82GO Healthy Lifestyles programme at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dr Sinead Murphy said “With a quarter of children overweight or obese, we need to tackle the issue of childhood obesity head on or our next generation will be beset with significant health problems later in life. Evidence shows that once obesity is established, it is both difficult to reverse and can track into adulthood”.

“Sadly, children who are overweight are at serious risk of becoming adults who are obese. This increases the risk manifold of developing serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancers and shortened life-expectancy”, she continued.

Welcoming this initiative by safefood, Dr Darach O’Ciardha, ICGP Spokesperson said “Obesity is one of the conditions where prevention is certainly better than cure. Any move to educate parents about the need to monitor and prevent bad dietary habits which will last a lifetime, from developing is welcome. This initiative is a first step in tackling the ticking time bomb that is rising obesity levels particularly amongst the young.”

The safefood campaign will also be supported on the safefood website www.safefood.eu and on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. To find out more about the campaign including how-to videos from health experts and practical advice and guides for parents, visit: www.safefood.eu.

Courtesy of Safefood.eu

Minister calls for action to tackle clear danger of childhood obesity

Reilly warns that overweight crisis likely to leave ‘detrimental legacy lasting decades’.

If we don’t tackle our problem with childhood obesity we are in danger of becoming the first generation to bury our children, Minister for Health James Reilly said yesterday when he launched a three-year campaign to address the issue.

He also spoke about his own battle with weight and said he was happy for any publicity that increased awareness about obesity.
Mr Reilly said obesity left a “detrimental legacy lasting decades and which will undoubtedly lead Ireland to an unhealthy and extremely costly, if not unaffordable, future if action is not taken now”. The all-island campaign led by Safefood is supported by the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework, and Northern Ireland’s Fitter Futures for All Implementation Plan.

Information campaign
It encourages parents to reduce children’s portion sizes, cut back on treats and sugary drinks and reduce the amount of time children spend in front of TVs and other screens.

The campaign will include advertising on TV and radio and will provide a free booklet in places such as creches, health centres and libraries. Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said some statistics on the weight of Irish children pointed to “an appalling vista” for some children.
“I can still remember the shock I felt when I heard from the Growing Up in Ireland study that 25 per cent of our children, of our three-year-olds, were obese or overweight,” she said. Research showed that 6 per cent of three-year-olds were obese.
“This problem is beginning very early in life for Irish children. Therefore it’s really important to intervene early.” She said high-fat and high-sugar foods were not just an occasional treat for some children. “They are the staple.”

Ms Fitzgerald also highlighted the social and psychological effects of being overweight, saying there was a danger that overweight children might engage in harmful behaviour. “Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be bullied at school so we are putting our children at risk of many dangers,” she said.
After he spoke at the launch, Dr Reilly was asked how he felt about a Sunday newspaper article criticising his weight.
“I’m not happy with the profundity of my rotundity and it’s been an issue that I’ve been concerned about,” he said. “It’s an area I’ve had a long, long interest in for obvious reasons and one that I continue to struggle with myself but I’ll keep struggling.”

Quality of life
Dr Reilly said being overweight “does have an impact on your health status and will impact in so many ways, not just diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, but osteoarthritis, and interfering with your ability to enjoy your later years in life.
“We want to live long and live well. There’s not much point, as happened in my own family, of living to be 80 if you spend the last 14 years of your life with no vision . . . Obviously we all want to live as long as possible but surely we want to have a life that’s a quality life as well.”

Courtesy of the Irish Times

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.