A quarter of all Irish three-year-olds are now obese or overweight according to a shocking new survey.
Preliminary research from a government funded national study of children growing up in Ireland has just been released.
An initial study published in 2009 indicated it had found 19 per cent of nine-year-olds were overweight and seven per cent were obese.
Similar trends are now emerging in relation to toddlers according to Professor Sheila Greene, director of the Children’s Research Centre at Trinity College.
Professor Greene made the remarks at a conference in Dublin to discuss the findings of the latest ‘Growing Up In Ireland’ research involving 11,000 Irish babies.
She said that while the data is still ‘preliminary and tentative’, the early indications are that around a quarter of all Irish three-year-olds are obese.
A national policy aimed at improving public health is to be drawn up when the full results of the research are available.
Also present at the Dublin seminar were Minister for Health James Reilly, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Ministers of State Róisín Shortall, who has responsibility for primary care, and Kathleen Lynch, who has responsibility for disability, mental health and older people.
Minister Fitzgerald told the conference that she is ‘gravely concerned’ that children are drinking and smoking from a younger age.
“A serious percentage of small children are now also overweight or obese,” claimed Fitzgerald.
“As a State we simply cannot afford the future cost of healthcare if we do not seek to address the challenges posed by childhood obesity, alcohol and tobacco use by our children, given the predicted disease burden associated with these preventable public health risks.
“The feasibility of having the calorie content of meals in fast food outlets on display will have to be looked at.”