ChildLinks Issue 1: Children and Nutrition

Barnardos. (2009). ChildLinks Issue 1: Children and Nutrition.
One in four 9 year olds in Ireland is overweight according to the July report of the Growing Up in Ireland study. The study found that 74% of 9 year olds were not overweight, 19% were overweight and 7% were obese. These are very disturbing statistics but ones which are consistent with the growing international trend of increasing obesity in childhood. The study found that girls were more likely than boys to be classified as overweight and obese. It also found that children’s weight was related to social class, with a greater incidence of overweight being linked to lower socio-economic background. An additional link was found between children’s healthy eating habits and parental education, in that better eating habits were linked with higher parental education. The theme of this issue of ChildLinks is Children and Nutrition. The costly health consequences of childhood obesity in physical, social and financial terms is highlighted by Celine Murrin from UCD. Overweight and obesity in childhood is associated with greater risk of many chronic diseases in childhood and adulthood. The National Taskforce on Obesity (2005) made extensive recommendations to promote healthy eating and active living, however implementation has been mixed. An example of an innovative approach to promoting healthy eating which targets children and parents via early years services is presented in an article on the Sligo/Leitrim Early Years Health Promotion Project. The issue of the marketing of unhealthy foods to children has been prioritised by the Children’s Food Campaign, which is an Irish campaign. UK research has found that there is sufficient evidence to show that food promotion has an effect on children, particularly their food preferences, purchase behaviour (including ‘pester power’) and consumption. The Children’s Food Campaign is calling for a ban on television advertising of unhealthy foods to children up to the 9pm watershed. They are also looking for a comprehensive set up of measures across all media to protect children from the sophisticated multi-media approach of the food industry. Barnardos supports the implementation of these measures in the interests of promoting childrens’ health.