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Recent research has found that 85,000 children in Ireland will die prematurely because of childhood obesity.

 

With this alarming statistic in mind, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) says that childhood obesity is the greatest threat to the health of young people.

 

The Head of Advocacy for the IHF, Chris Macey, spoke to the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on how our children are affected by obesity, according to RTÉ.

 

He illustrated the importance of this issue by noting that kids as young as eight are already presenting with high blood pressure. As well, there are young people showing signs of heart disease, a condition formerly confined to middle-aged people.

 

 

Now, we are seeing children in disadvantaged areas who are both obese and malnourished at the same time, Chris observed.

 

To combat these disturbing trends, IHF is focusing on the marketing of junk food to young children.

 

They are especially concerned about digital marketing targeted at young kids, via smartphones and tablets. Considering the ubiquity of technology, kids are constantly being bombarded by 'the brand in the hand'.

 

IHF is calling on the government to introduce a blanket ban on the advertising of unhealthy foods to kids under 16.

 

 

Chris said that political will is key in addressing childhood obesity and instituting this ban.

 

Other important issues were brought up at the committee meeting in relation to childhood obesity.

 

Dr Sinead Murphy, from Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, said that less than half of the children who visit her clinic have space to play outside. She wasn't even referencing a back garden but, rather, and simply an outdoor public play space.

 

Ireland's Clinical Lead for Obesity, Professor Donal O'Shea, highlighted the fact that though childhood obesity figures appear to have stabilised, this disguises the continued increase in obesity in disadvantaged groups and decrease in kids coming from families with higher incomes and levels of education.

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