The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (Environment and Social Committee) have officially launched their report on childhood obesity. The report recognises the need for decisive action on childhood obesity, which is a prominent public health issue across both the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, almost 25% of children are overweight or obese, while in Northern Ireland approximately 21% of children are overweight, and 7% obese.
The report recognises that childhood obesity is a multidimensional issue, comprised of many different factors, including the individual themselves, families, schools, and wider society. The report also identified the need for action in a number of areas; including physical activity, planning regulations, the role of the food and drink industry, and the role of schools.
The BIPA report also highlighted the considerable progress of the Netherlands in reducing levels of childhood obesity, in particular the implementation of the JOGG (Jongeren Op Gezond Gewicht – Young People at a Healthy Weight) initiative. JOGG aims to prevent a child from becoming overweight or obese by influencing the behaviour of the entire family, changing social norms and environment at a local level. This initiative is built on five core pillars:
- Local political commitment
- Social marketing
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Public-Private Partnerships
- The integration of prevention and healthcare
JOGG is recognised as good practice at a European level, and IPH are delighted to have had the opportunity to visit the Netherlands in order to see the effectiveness of this initiative.
The report concluded that childhood obesity is a multifactorial problem, with no single cause and no simple solution. A number of recommendations were made for all participant countries, including:
- The need for strong local and national leadership and commitment
- A joined-up, “whole of government” approach to policy and services
- Adequate regulation on advertising
- Public information campaigns
- A focus on the important role of schools in preventing childhood obesity
- A focus on the social gradient of health
- Facilitating people in being able to live healthy lives
IPH have made a significant contribution to research on obesity at a European level as part of the EU Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity (JANPA), and the EU Joint Action on Diseases and Promoting Healthy Ageing Across the Life-Cycle (CHRODIS) projects. The Institute has also contributed to all-island research on physical activity in younger people, such as the most recent Physical Activity Report Card for Children. To find out more information about IPH work on obesity, visit the Health Well Obesity Hub.