Belfast Telegraph

Children obese before they start school

Top GP shocked by number of children overweight at a very young age

By Rebecca Black

A leading Northern Ireland GP has described shock new figures that one in five children are overweight or obese before they even start primary school as very worrying.

Dr Tom Black – chair of the GP committee of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland – was speaking as a study carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) revealed that obesity and mental health were the two biggest problems facing children on the island of Ireland.

It showed nine in every 10 paediatricians were worried about weight problems among youngsters.

Dr Black said he felt that sometimes parents didn't realise their children were obese. He said: "Very often parents don't recognise that their own children are overweight. That's because so many of their friends are also overweight.

"The norm for recognising overweight children has been skewed.

"I think the biggest risk we have of childhood obesity is that the obesity then continues into adulthood."

He said it led to people suffering high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, which were "really putting a considerable toll on the overall health of society".

Dr Black added: "I think we have to recognise that, for instance, diabetes uses up 10% of the resources of the health service and we are having to devote a considerable part of resources to diseases that are preventable."

The RCPCH survey found that six in 10 paediatricians said they were treating more children for anxiety, depression and self-harming.

The RCPCH, which opens its Irish office in Belfast today, polled its 529 members on both sides of the border to find out what they believe are the key issues in child health here. RCPCH president Dr Hilary Cass said the results clearly showed obesity and mental health are the two major priorities that must be tackled in Ireland.

"Nearly 20% of children in Northern Ireland are now overweight or obese before they start primary school, and judging from the findings from this public poll, more must be done to raise public health awareness," she added.

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