In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, let’s look at the health of Irish children. Here are 7 key findings from a study conducted by the National Children’s Food Survey (NCFS) from a sample of 594 Irish children (293 boys and 301 girls) aged 5 to 12 years during 2003 and 2004.
- More than 1 in 5 (22%) of children aged 5-12 years were carrying excess body weight (2 x increase in the number of overweight and obese children in 15 years)
- Children live in homes where 3 in 5 Irish adults are overweight or obese (66% of men and 54% of women)
- 90% of a child’s food intake came from the home
- Overweight parents were associated with a greater risk for overweight children
- Overweight and obesity affected all social classes and levels of education
- Overweight children on average watched 30 more minutes of television compared to children with healthy weights
- More than 4 in 5 parents (85%) who had children who were overweight and more than 1 in 2 parents (56%) who had children who were obese believed their child’s weight was fine for their age.
The study gave multiple recommendations, but here are two recommendations can apply to any country:
- Priority must be given to supporting parents and guardians in the home environment. One way is through public awareness campaigns. Additionally, schools can hold wellness nights where education on diet, exercise, and television watching can be discussed. Moreover, parents need to make conscious efforts to be active and eat healthy with their children.
- Parents should know the national physical activity guidelines. The Irish National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day for children and at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on 5 days a week or 150 minutes a week for adults. The guidelines for the US are the same and can be found here: http://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/
It appears the Irish have similar problems with obesity and overweight as most of the rest of the world.
On a positive note, according to a more recent study published in October 2014 in BMC Public Health, the prevalence rates of childhood obesity in Ireland have levelled off. (see: here)
As parents, it is impossible to be perfect. I’m very guilty of this as my three-year-old wants nothing but pancakes with a lot of whip cream on it! I think what matters is that we are aware of the recommendations to keep our children healthy and that we take the baby steps to get there. My daughter had grapes with her whip cream pancakes. Baby steps!
Here is a fun physical activity I tried. I took my younger two children on a bike ride to several parks. We stopped at each one, and they ran around like crazy. It was a great exercise for all of us.
Do you have any other recommendations for any baby steps you took to try and keep your children healthy and active? Or do you have any other interesting Irish children health facts?
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Reference: Safefood and Health Service Executive (2011) Body weight and eating habits in 5-12 year old Irish children. Retrieved from http://www.safefood.eu/SafeFood/media/SafeFoodLibrary/Documents/Publications/Research%20Reports/Bodyweight-pdf.pdf