Doctors in Ireland warn of fresh child health fears as reports of illness linked to obesity and mental health grow

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) launch presence in Ireland as new survey reveals:

  • Nearly two thirds of Irish paediatricians report increase in obesity related illnesses

  • 90% say childhood obesity is their biggest concern

  • 60% report a rise in children with mental health problems

  • 92% worry that children with mental health problems aren’t able to receive treatment
    quickly enough

 

62% of paediatricians in Ireland are treating more children in their clinic who are overweight or obese than they did two years ago, prompting 90% to say that obesity is the child health priority that’s highest on their agenda. Of the 62%, just over half (53%) confirmed a rise in the number of children with sleep problems and 46% confirmed an increase in the number who had asthma.

The survey of members from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Ireland also found that 60% see more children with mental health problems than they did two years ago, with 79% reporting a rise in cases of anxiety, 37% reporting more cases of self-harm and 24% seeing more children suffering with depression.

Furthermore, 92% of paediatricians said they were worried that children with mental health problems aren’t able to receive treatment quickly enough thanks to underfunded services (89%), a lack of early intervention (38%) and rota vacancies (33%).

The findings come as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Ireland opens a new office in Belfast - the first official office presence in the country since RCPCH’s conception in 1996 – to help drive forward and improve children’s health in the region.

“Getting key public health messages out to families early is essential if we are to reduce the numbers of children suffering obesity and mental health related illness,” said Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

“It’s clear from our membership survey that obesity and mental health are two major priorities for Ireland that need to be addressed. And now the College has staff on the ground, supporting its 529 members, we are in a much stronger position to train, educate, engage and campaign on these issues.”

A public opinion poll, commissioned by the RCPCH Ireland, supports the notion that a lack of public health awareness is contributing to the growing problem of obesity and mental health in Ireland.

The poll surveyed more than 350 people in Northern Ireland to gauge perceptions of child health. It highlighted that:

  • Over two thirds of the public in Northern Ireland are worried about childhood obesity
  • 57% of the public think it is cheaper to buy unhealthy food
  • Just under half of parents don’t know how physically active under 5’s should be
  • Over a third of parents surveyed say they are too busy to cook healthy food for their children
  • A third of parents don’t know how big portion sizes should be or what constitutes a
    balanced diet
  • 57% of the public surveyed linked poverty to the cause of mental ill health in Northern Ireland

 

Commenting on the findings from the public opinion poll, Dr Hilary Cass said:

“Overall, 27% of children are now classed as overweight or obese in Ireland - a figure which has doubled in the last 15 years.In addition to this, nearly 20% of children in the 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. Healthy children become healthy adults, so it’s crucial that healthcare professionals communicate basic health and wellbeing information at every point of contact. That means communicating how much exercise a child should be doing, how big portion sizes should be and the different types of food they should be eating – a simple measure that will help tackle the obesity problem if done by all healthcare professionals.”

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