Childhood obesity soars in Northern Ireland

Over the past few years there has been more and more evidence that much of the UK’s population is overweight, with a depressing percentage of obesity included in that sector. Countless studies have been done, sparking attempts by government and civilian agencies to promote better eating habits, more exercise and greater awareness amongst the general public, but the problem keeps getting larger, literally.

The latest statistics from the British Heart Foundation indicate that in Northern Ireland it’s got dramatically worse; the percentage of obese children doubled over a 15-year period, and increased in just one year from 27% in 2011 to 31% in 2012, with all indicators pointing to a further increase this year.

A study published by University College London reports that less than half (43%) of seven-year-old children get the minimum recommended amount of exercise, which is one hour daily. This is especially worrying because of the established fact that most people tend to exercise less when they reach adulthood than they did as children, so the adverse effects of sedentary living tend to multiply as we get older.

This month the report from Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) that confirms the BHF statistics also suggests that any solution to the problem must come from a united effort amongst parents, schools, food manufacturers and marketers and both government and private health organisations.

NICHS CEO Andrew Dougal said that the combination of hardly any exercise with a diet heavy in sugar, fat and salt is setting a huge percentage of children up for serious health issues in later life, including but not limited to heart disease, osteoporosis, some types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

The current and potential impact on NHS is alarming, to say the least.

In January 2013 the Public Health Agency launched a campaign to educate, inform and assist the general public in understanding the facts about overweight and the effects it has on health.

PHA reported that well over half the adults in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, and with most of them, the problem originated in childhood. For more information check out their dedicated website; choosetolivebetter.com.