01/02/2007

'Fit futures' aims to reduce childhood obesity

A significant step in tackling obesity in children in Northern Ireland has been launched today.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has launched the ‘Fit Futures’ plan for consultation, joining up health, education and sport in seeking to reduce obesity in children.

The plan includes: establish healthy schools policy for toddlers and children facilitate an annual business and nutrition forum establish a Fit Futures Programme Board led by DHSSPS, Department of Education (DE) and Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) web-based resources on nutrition and physical activity trebling the number of pupils participating in Safe Routes to schools in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the DHSSPS said: “Recent research reveals that around one in ten of our children are now obese. Well over a quarter are either overweight or obese. These are alarming statistics and do not augur well for their future health and well-being. We need everyone’s help – parents, teachers, care-givers, other professionals and indeed children and young people themselves. Unless we all take the need for good nutrition and an active lifestyle seriously, we will leave our children with unnecessary problems in the future.

“Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes. All of these shorten people’s lives or at best reduce the quality of life in Northern Ireland.”

The plan highlights that while all parts of society are affected, people from disadvantaged backgrounds are at the greatest risk of becoming obese and having related chronic health problems. A combination of poor nutrition and inactive lifestyles is having a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of young people and on children’s capacity to learn and develop.

The spokesperson concluded: “Government has already invested millions of pounds in policies and programmes such as Sport in Our Community, Extended Schools and Nutritional Standards for Schools Meals.

“The implementation plan also seeks to develop this long-term commitment to stop the rise in levels of obesity in children by 2010. While the future health of our young people is the primary concern, it is interesting to note that just stopping the rise in obesity could save the health service at least £200 million over the next twenty years. It is a real challenge for everyone. The Department strongly encourages people to send in their comments on the Fit Futures Implementation Plan.”

(EF/SP)

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