In 1975, only 1 percent of Irish children were classified as being obese. But, according to The Lancet there was “a tenfold increase in the rate of obesity among Irish boys between 1975 and 2016, and a ninefold increase among Irish girls.”
Last fall a report showed that on the list of 20 countries, the Republic of Ireland ranks 58th for its proportion of overweight youth. This is a much worse rating than those held by the genetically, linguistically, and politically comparable countries United Kingdom and United States.
The Irish Dental Association had established that small children were having their teeth pulled at an astonishing rate. The organization hesitated to entirely blame families, noting that many parents mistakenly buy food while suffering from illusions. A spokesperson gave the example of sugar-laden yogurt, which is promoted as healthful, and criticized the manufacturers’ tendency, when designing product labels, to disguise sugar beneath many different aliases.
Needless to say, the connection between dental disaster, the sugar industry, and obesity exists in the minds of every serious expert. But, as industry lobbying groups always do, the Irish Beverage Council ridiculed the idea of any causative effect.
To establish the need for treatment, each child is supposed to have at least three dental screenings during the grade school years, but because of chronic staff shortages, this was not happening. The system had broken down. Coming at the problem from another angle, there was talk of a sugar tax.
Bikes and clothes
A couple of years back, a senator took note of how tax-free bicycles had increased the habit of biking in London, and introduced the idea of starting a “Bike to School” plan “to enable employers to provide employees with tax-exempt bicycle/safety equipment for their school-age children.”
Last August, the national imagination was captured by a press interview with the representative of a school uniform manufacturer who spoke of dress shirts with 19″ necks, and 10-year-olds needing sweatshirts labeled as adult large. Jonathan Eakin told a reporter:
Ten years ago, we brought in a special elasticated pants for primary school kids. At the time we started with a 28″ waist and did it up to a 36″ waist but we now do it up to 46″ waist… This year for secondary school we did it up to 50″ waist but we have been asked for 52″ and 54″ waists.
Just a few days ago, Catherine Shanahan reported on the very dismaying result obtained by a free obesity prevention program available through Health Service Executive (HSE). Participating families were expected to keep track of dietary intake, exercise, and screen time, and participate in using the techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy. Shanahan wrote:
While the families of 95 seven-year-olds, of whom 86 were obese and 9 overweight, were offered monthly dietician-led sessions for six months, just 51 made an appointment with the service… Of those, only 37 actually showed up. At the end of the six months, just 18 had stayed the course.
And even then, among the very small number of families who persisted to the end, the children did not experience weight loss sufficient to be termed clinically significant. The blame apparently is being placed on parents, who persisted in using politically incorrect language like “chubby,” “fat,” and “heavy.”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Obesity: A public health crisis,” IrishTimes.com, 10/13/17
Source: “Why increasing numbers of youngsters are losing their teeth,” TrishTimes.com, 05/16/17
Source: “A Labour Senator calls for tax-free bikes for Irish school kids,” BikeBiz.com, 07/21/15
Source: “Store asked for school trousers with 54” waist,” IrishExaminer.com, 08/30/17
Source: “Parents shun free scheme to tackle child obesity,” Irishexaminer.com, 02/16/18
Photo credit: Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com) on Visualhunt/CC BY