Government must do more to tackle childhood obesity

By Gillian Hogan Obesity News   |   8th Dec 2021

A new poll shows public support for more action from Government on childhood obesity  

Almost seven in ten people believe the Government is not doing enough to confront childhood obesity in Ireland, a new poll has revealed.

According to new Ipsos MRBI research which was done on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, 69 per cent of those surveyed felt more could be done to tackle childhood obesity.

“The people of Ireland are telling the Government very clearly through our poll that they want a much bolder approach to protecting children’s health,” said the Irish Heart Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Campaign Manager, Helena O’Donnell.

“Our manifesto target of halving the childhood obesity rate by 2030 is a reflection of what the public is demanding,” she added.

“Our manifesto target of halving the childhood obesity rate by 2030 is a reflection of what the public is demanding,”

Helena O'Donnell, Childhood Obesity Campaign Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

In the poll of 1,044 adults which was taken last month, only 20 per cent believed the Government was doing enough on childhood obesity, with 11 per cent saying they did not know.

The majority of those who stated that more must be done were in the 45-54 age group (73%).

The State’s own research estimates that 85,000 of today’s generation of children will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity.

Furthermore, an ESRI study published in March – a year into the pandemic – showed that 29 per cent of 12-year-olds were eating more junk food or sweets since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“The current Government target of reducing childhood obesity by just half of 1 per cent  per annum up to 2025 is not ambitious enough in the face of a tenfold increase in the rate since the mid-1970s and even achieving the objective will still leave us with a crisis for our children’s future health,” said Ms O’Donnell.

“In 2013, junk brand advertising to children on television was restricted because of its health impact. Meanwhile, there has been an explosion in digital marketing that’s more personalised, effective and therefore potentially even more damaging.”

" There has been an explosion in digital marketing that’s more personalised, effective and therefore potentially even more damaging."

Helena O'Donnell, Childhood Obesity Campaign Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

A growing trend in obesity levels in children, especially during Covid, is evident to childhood obesity campaigner Caroline Cotter, 23. She is a final year student of home economics in St Angela’s College in Sligo and teaches the subject at an adult education college.

“It is clear to me that junk food companies used the opportunity [during Covid] to keep their unhealthy products centre stage in children’s minds,” said Caroline.

“We need to break the junk food cycle to improve children’s health. I joined this campaign because I believe a ban on junk food marketing would be a game changer in tackling childhood obesity.

“As an active campaigner, I’ve been in touch with the Advertising Standards Authority about irresponsible advertising by brands loved by young people as this marketing is continuing without penalties.”

" I joined this campaign because I believe a ban on junk food marketing would be a game changer in tackling childhood obesity."

Caroline Cotter, Childhood Obesity Campaigner

The Irish Heart Foundation is now urging everyone to petition their local TDs and Senators, demanding action through a pre-written letter on its website, as part of its Stop Targeting Kids’ campaign.

The Irish Heart Foundation has been dedicated to leading the fight against the marketing of junk food to children in Ireland for years. The Stop Targeting Kids campaign was launched in 2017 to build public support for Government intervention to protect children’s health through strict controls, particularly on digital marketing.

“I encourage other young people to join this campaign to show public demand for increased marketing restrictions,” said Ms Cotter.

“Together we can place the spotlight back on healthy eating and protect the future of children’s health.”

The public can support the campaign to ban junk food marketing to young people by lobbying their local politicians to act on the promise in the Programme for Government to tackle childhood obesity.

For more information and for ways to get involved please see here.

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child health childhood obesity childhood obesity manifesto children junk food junk food marketing Obesity stop targeting kids

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