Children at obesity clinic have risk factors for heart disease

By June Shannon Heart News   |   22nd Mar 2018

40 per cent of children presenting to the specialist weight management service at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin already have risk factors for heart disease.

Thursday 22 March 2018

More than a third or 40 per cent of children presenting to the specialist weight management service at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin already have risk factors for heart disease, clinicians at the service have said.

In a presentation to the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on childhood obesity yesterday (Wednesday 21 March), health professionals at the W82GO! Weight Management Service at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin said that 40 per cent of the children and adolescents who presented to the service already had risk factors for heart disease and 17 per cent met the criteria for having the Metabolic Syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).

The Committee also heard that 40 per cent of the children and adolescents had “significant and severe” mental health difficulties with 75 per cent experiencing bullying and 11 per cent experiencing “severe bullying.” A number also had a history of self-harm and suicidal intent.

The W82GO! Service was established in Temple Street in 2004 and all the children referred to the service are clinically obese.

According to the Temple St clinicians, the average nine-year-old in Ireland weighs 34 kg (5 stone 5 pounds) whereas the average 9-year-old attending the Temple Street clinic is 55 kg (8 stone 9 pounds).

In the past 14 years the service has treated more than 1,500 children with obesity. In 2017 almost half or 49 per cent of patients were under 10 years old, 29 per cent were between 11 and 13 and 22 per cent were 14 years or older.

These children are even more at risk of morbid obesity and cardiovascular ill-health in adulthood.

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Addressing the Committee Nicola Sheridan, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Paediatrics, at the service said “Over 40 per cent are from deprived to severely deprived areas and the rates of homelessness have become more common. As such, we are seeing first-hand the effects of inequality on health outcomes.”

According to the Temple St team, the rates of clinical and morbid obesity are nearly double in schools with high levels of disadvantage and this is “particularly worrying as these children are even more at risk of morbid obesity and cardiovascular ill-health in adulthood.”

The Committee also heard that the current waiting time for the specialist service at Temple Street is almost two and a half years which the clinicians described as “unacceptable.”

The Irish Heart Foundation welcomes that the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs is undertaking a series of meetings on childhood obesity.

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager with the Irish Heart Foundation said: “What we have heard from the first day of committee hearings on those children coming to the services at Temple Street is shocking, but unfortunately a stark reality. Tackling childhood obesity cannot be neglected.
Childhood overweight and obesity means that these children are at much greater risk of an adult life dominated by chronic disease and of premature death.”

“If we do not tackle this issue comprehensively now, we risk exacerbating an already dangerous crisis where the direct and indirect cost of obesity in Ireland is estimated at around €1.13billion and over 85,000 people will die prematurely.”

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