HSE hosts Overweight & Obesity event to raise awareness, inspire best practice and break the stigma around childhood obesity

HSE Press Release

Embargoed until Thursday, 6th October 2022 at 00.01am

On Thursday, 6th October 2022, the HSE is collaborating with the Association for the Study of Obesity in Ireland (ASOI) and the Irish Coalition for people living with Obesity (ICPO) to host Overweight and Obesity...Lets Talk!

This event aims to share the science behind obesity, to inspire best practice in obesity care, to break the stigma of obesity through sharing lived experiences and to explore conversations about growth, obesity and health. This year, the focus is on children and young people.

The event runs from 10am - 2pm on Thursday, 6th October in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dublin 2. It is free and open to everyone including the general public, parents, carers and healthcare professionals. Participants can also join virtually and the event will be available to access online afterwards.

Opening the event, Dr Ciara Martin, HSE National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead for Paediatrics, says: “2022 sees the continuation of implementation of the HSE Model of Care for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Ireland. Specifically, two new multi-disciplinary community based services will be set up in South East Community Healthcare and Community Healthcare Dublin South, Kildare and West WicklowThese teams will provide specialist support for children and young people with overweight and obesity. The national specialist service in Children’s Health Ireland is also expanding to treat children and young people with severe and complex obesity.”

Susie Birney, Executive Director ICPO, Patient Representative ASOI, says: "I am delighted to see the focus on children and young people at Overweight and Obesity…Lets Talk this year. Many of our members have family living with obesity but it can be a difficult topic to discuss. Parents are often blamed, and this just adds to the stigma and lack of information about this disease. People want to know how to have the conversation and what support is available. It is clear that hearing the lived experience of those who live with obesity, combined with the science and the research, is an impactful approach for discussing health and weight and also towards addressing the stigma which comes with this disease."

Dr Cathy Breen, Chair of ASOI says: "This is the 2nd time that ASOI have partnered on this event and we're delighted this year to bring specialists in the areas of paediatric and adolescent obesity and eating disorders to join us in the 'Lets Talk' conversations. These are topics that can be challenging and worrying for healthcare professionals and families to discuss. I'm really looking forward to hearing from researchers and clinicians who specialise in these areas about best-practice when approaching these topics. I think it will help all attendees to make sure that we're working to improve both mental and physical health in obesity in a helpful, non-stigmatising way."

Key Information:

  • We need to improve the health and wellbeing of all children, irrespective of their body size or shape.
  • The options and opportunities we all have available to us affect how healthy we can be, society is awash with unhealthy options and many of these have an impact on health and weight.
  • Childhood obesity is a chronic disease where excess weight affects health, this can include asthma, joint pain, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure.
  • Overweight and obesity affects children’s quality of life through social exclusion, higher risk of bullying and low self-esteem.
  • In Ireland, at least 1 in 5 children are estimated to have overweight or obesity.
  • COVID-19 restrictions, reduced incomes and food insecurity have had an impact on weight related health behaviours including healthy eating, physical activity, sleep, screen-time and stress.
  • In the UK the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children increased by 5% between 2019 and 2021.

Professor Donal O’Shea, HSE Obesity Clinical Lead explains: “Obesity is a complex chronic disease for which there are a lot of different causes. Overweight and obesity is not a lifestyle choice due to poor self-discipline or lack of motivation. Genetics, combined with an environment that makes it hard to eat healthier or be physically active, are increasingly recognised to be a major contributor to body weight. Childhood obesity is a chronic disease that is treated most effectively by care delivered by a multi-disciplinary team – in Ireland there is limited availability of this type of care for children and young people who need it.

He continues: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to address obesity as a ministerial priority and allocate funding to the implementation of the model of care for adults and children’s services through initiatives including Sláintecare Healthy Communities and Scheduled Care Transformation.”

Sarah O’Brien, HSE, National Lead, Healthy Eating & Active Living Programme, Health & Wellbeing outlines: “As parents, we all want to protect and enhance our child or young person’s health and we need support to this. Under our Healthy Weight for Children Action Plan we are working to support children, young people and families to adopt lifestyles and behaviours that promote health through initiatives like the START campaign (www.makeastart.ie), expanding community based health promotion programmes such as Sláintecare Healthy Communities and providing training for healthcare professionals with initiatives such as RCSI’s Online Training Course available from www.childhoodobesity.ie.

“We know that our children, young people and families are living in a toxic environment flooded with cheap and intensely marketed energy dense foods.  Irrespective of body size or shape, their opportunities to be healthy are being undermined every day.  We need to set the stage for child health by working with government to address the big drivers through national policy and legislation that protects children and young people from these aggressive marketing practices.”

For more information or to register see Overweight and Obesity...Lets Talk!

Last updated on: 05 / 10 / 2022