Childhood Obesity News has been following along with happenings in the United Kingdom, because the U.S. shares with that nation a language, the roots of its legal system, and innumerable cultural influences. But what about the Republic of Ireland? Despite its physical proximity to the U.K. and the fact that a little bit of the Irish island is still part of the U.K., the Republic is a whole different country. Today we catch up on some of the ideas that have been pitched there.
The Health Service Executive, or HSE, announced that among grade school children, girls are more likely to be obese, but the difference between girls and boys levels out as they progress to higher grades. Records created by the Childhood Obesity Surveillance showed that…
[…] in 2008, 20 per cent of girls in first class [ages 6-7] were overweight, and just 13 per cent of boys. When the research was repeated in 2012 over 24 per cent of girls were overweight or obese, and 14 per cent of boys.
In addition, the most recent HSE study indicated that Ireland’s child obesity rates were no longer rising. It was also noticed that economically disadvantaged children were more likely to be overweight or obese.
HSE leader Professor Donal O’Shea asked the country to consider reallocating scarce resources to spend more on the first three years of life, and less on the last three months of life. This triage problem exists in every place where the government collects taxes to pay for healthcare.
O’Shea has been advocating a sugar tax for 10 years, and also asks for the creation of a prevention-focused anti-obesity plan in hospital groups and community health organizations, adding:
We need to put in place and build on the National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland —
get people out, get people active, educate people around the healthy choice and start making that healthy choice easier.
Last October, plans were in motion for a voluntary anti-junk food code, to be administered by none other than… the companies that make junk food. From the country’s prestigious universities, two dozen senior faculty members wrote a letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris, expressing their opinion that this really wasn’t good enough. The letter stated:
Voluntary codes rely on mutual agreement between stakeholders. But the ultimate goals of junk food brands and government simply do not align. And there are no penalties for those who ignore voluntary codes because they are, by definition, not statutory.
The Department of Health touted the new Code of Practice as a step in the right direction, particularly since its working group was chaired by Ireland’s former Food Safety Authority head Prof. Allan Reilly. Earlier this month the new voluntary codes came into effect, but only for non-broadcast media. Journalist Hayley Halpin wrote:
The Codes of Practice were created over a 15-month period in consultation with various sectors including IBEC, Food Drink Ireland, Retail Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, amongst others.
The goal was “to ensure that foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) are marketed in a responsible way.” This includes promises to cut down on advertising, marketing and sponsoring products of this kind. The political party Sinn Fein thinks this is a waste of time, and would prefer legislation that would spell out rules and make them mandatory, with legal consequences if violated. Dr. Norah Campbell of Trinity Business School has never cared for the self-policing idea, likening it to “using Dracula to head up the blood bank.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Schoolgirls more at risk of being overweight than boys,” IrishTimes.com, 05/05/17
Source: “‘Aggressive’ obesity prevention and treatment needed, according to new HSE clinical lead,” BreakingNews.ie, 07/09/17
Source: “Voluntary code on junk food doomed to failure, say academics,” IrishTimes.com, 10/12/17
Source: “Mixed reactions over new voluntary codes to restrict advertising of ‘high fat sugar salt’ foods,” TheJournal.ie, 02/14/18
Photo credit: William Myrphy (infomatique) on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA