Dublin South West Sinn Féin TD, Seán Crowe, has called for a national conversation around childhood obesity after it was revealed that 20% of school children between 4th and 6th class are overweight.

Childhood obesity has been an increasing problem among young Irish people for many years, and worryingly Ireland is on course to be the most obese nation in Europe by 2030.

A Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) survey was released by the HSE in collaboration with UCD researchers.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“Ireland remains on course to be the most obese nation in Europe by 2030, and we need to start a national conversation around this reality. We need to discuss why it is happening and what collectively we can do as a society to move away from this health time bomb.

“1 in 5 children are now overweight, yet this is hardly an item on the country’s political agenda. It is important to note that there is also a direct correlation between those that suffer relative poverty and children who are overweight.

“This is a health time bomb ticking away, so any time spent on tackling obesity now is a saving on our health service into the future.  It makes fiscal and societal sense that we take immediate measures.

“Clearly there are many people doing hugely important work in highlighting these issues, but their voices are not being heard in the corridors of power.”

Crowe continued:

“Education is key, but lifestyle changes have to part of any long term solution. Balance is needed in the calories children eat and drink and the physical activity that they do, while making allowance for normal growth.

“We need to pro-actively encourage active healthy lifestyles, all the while bearing in mind that proper nutrition is vital for a child’s development

“We must also do something around advertisements on unhealthy food, and a tax on foods with high salt, fat and sugar content.

“Sinn Féin’s strong proposals for a sugar tax have finally been taken on board by the Government after a lot foot dragging, but crucially any money generated from this new tax has to be ring-fenced for health and encouraging more positive lifestyle choices.

“We need to begin to put in place workable solutions around diet and exercise, and continue to help parents and children understand the benefits of being physically activity.”