Little Steps go a long way..

link to littlesteps.euLittle steps go a long way is a new campaign from the HSE, Safefood and the Health Promotion Agency in Northern Ireland. Small changes to physical activity and food habits have a big impact on health and on the levels of people who are either overweight, or obese. Visit to find out more.

This campaign was launched on Monday June 16th - the launch press release is below:


HSE, Safefood and the NI Health Promotion Agency call for a reality check on obesity

'Almost half of all parents prepare separate meals for their children'

'New research reveals that only 3 out of 10 children getting the recommended amount of physical activity'

Earlier today, Monday, 16th June, the Health Service Executive and safefood in collaboration with the Health Promotion Agency, Northern Ireland launched a major campaign aimed at tackling the serious problem of obesity across the island of Ireland. The campaign, launched by Minister Mary Wallace, TD, Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety, has been informed by new research into children's eating habits and physical activity levels. The research also looked at parents' attitudes towards eating and physical activity.

Entitled, 'Little Steps Go A Long Way', the campaign is a major awareness initiative involving television, radio advertising and digital activity designed to empower people, by showing that small changes to physical activity and food habits will have a big impact on health and on the levels of people who are either overweight, or obese.

Described as a "one of the most serious public health challenges" by the World Health Organization (WHO), the problem of obesity is at epidemic proportions among adults and children across the island of Ireland and looks set to continue growing at a rate of 1% every year. 3 In 2005, it was estimated that about 2,000 premature deaths in the Republic of Ireland were attributed to obesity and that these deaths could be costing the state as much as €4 billion a year. 4

The Health Service Executive, safefood and the Health Promotion Agency, NI have come together in a partnership approach with one common purpose - to provide one voice and a clear message to the public on the issue of obesity and show how little steps can lead to a healthier future.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Minister Mary Wallace, TD, Minister for Health Promotion and Food Safety said "The report of the obesity taskforce identified childhood obesity as a key threat to the future health of people on the island of Ireland. It called for real practical engagement by all sectors with this issue. This initiative represents true cooperation and avoidance of duplication of effort by the key agencies charged with promoting health, healthy diets, physical activity and lifestyles. I welcome this campaign, which through concerted action aims to tackle this important issue."

"The problem of obesity is not going to be solved overnight. It will require a sustained effort over a long period. One of the big challenges we face is ensuring that people have the knowledge to realise that they or their children may be overweight, or obese. This campaign is designed to communicate that it is possible to work towards a long term, healthy weight with healthy, balanced eating habits and physical activity. Physical activity has a positive effect on people's overall health and not just their body weight. It is now very clear that it is not about severe or fad diets nor is it about running a marathon, but little steps along the way to a healthier future," said Catherine Murphy, Assistant National Director Population Health, Health Promotion, Health Service Executive. "In addressing what is a major societal issue; the Health Service Executive and safefood in collaboration with the Health Promotion Agency, Northern Ireland call on key stakeholders and agencies to join with them in supporting this campaign" she continued.

Research has shown that 11% of children aged 5 to 12 years of age are overweight and 11% are obese 5. However research 6 has demonstrated that the majority of mothers of overweight or obese children think that their children's weight is fine for their age and those who may realise that there is a problem feel overwhelmed by it and think the challenge is too great to tackle. New research 7 released earlier today for the campaign revealed that 6 in 10 parents find it a struggle getting their children to eat healthy food however, reluctance to trying new foods can be overcome by exposing children to them more frequently.

Dr Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said "There is evidence 8 to suggest that children's eating habits mirror those of their parents and children and young people of normal weight parents are more likely to have a normal weight. Yet our research 9 has revealed that almost half of all parents prepare a separate meal for their children. Almost 20% of families 10 eat their meals in front of the TV more than four times a week and there is evidence 11 to suggest that eating meals in front of the TV is associated with poorer eating habits. Over half of all parents 12 believe that their children should eat all the food on their plate, but children are the best judges of when they are full. We would also encourage parents to be aware of portion sizes and the smaller appetites of their children. What is concerning is the fact that over 4 in 10 parents 13 reward their children for eating all the food on their plate and this only serves to exacerbate the problem".

8 in 10 parents 14 feel that their children do the minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, but the reality is quite different with only 3 in 10 children 15 across the island of Ireland meeting that recommendation, despite the fact that 85%16 of children enjoy physical activity. Children now spend almost as much time at sedentary activities such as watching TV and surfing the web, as they do engaging in any type of physical activity. Furthermore, while 7 in 10 parents 17 agree that their own activity levels and eating habits influence those of their children, just over 1 in 10 parents 18 spontaneously mention making changes to their own habits as a means of tackling potential obesity problems among their children.

An information booklet, 'Little Steps Go a Long Way' is also available on 1850 24 1850. Further information is available at


Last updated on: 16 / 06 / 2008