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Quarter of Northern Ireland children overweight, says damning report

By Adrian Rutherford

More than a quarter of children in Northern Ireland are overweight or obese, a report has claimed.

The analysis by experts includes a stark warning over the poor health of our young people.

It calls for tighter restrictions on smoking and drinking, bolder action on obesity and implementation of a child poverty strategy.

The report, called State of Child Health - Northern Ireland, was compiled by experts at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

It brings together data on 25 measures of child health, ranging from specific conditions such as asthma and diabetes to risk factors including obesity and low breastfeeding rates.

Its key findings include:

  • An estimated 28% of children here are overweight or obese;
  • Some 23% of children are reported to live in poverty;
  • And less than 28% of babies at six weeks receive any breastmilk - the lowest level in the UK;

Dr Karl McKeever, RCPCH officer for Ireland, said: "We can't afford to ignore the fact that child health is not as good as it should be in Northern Ireland.

"Poverty is having a devastating effect on families - with smoking and drinking alcohol, poor mental health and obesity among children and young people all more likely to affect those from the most deprived backgrounds.

"Today we're bringing together experts from across the health sector, and beyond, to agree how child health should be prioritised and how we can ensure these issues are high on the political agenda. The current political vacuum makes it difficult to enact policy change. But ultimately, the state of child health will not improve without bold action from policy makers to ensure that every child - no matter where they are born - has the best possible chance of leading a healthy life."

The report makes a series of recommendations which its authors say could have a major impact on improving child health.

It claims that without interventions to close the gap between rich and poor, Northern Ireland will continue to fail its children in terms of their health.

Dr McKeever added: "Many of the illnesses that appear in adults have their roots in childhood, so by investing and intervening early, we're much more likely to create a healthier population."

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