11 Jul 2018, 11.55

A new report from the Joint Committee on Education and Skills has made a number of recommendations aimed at countering childhood obesity.

The ‘Report on tackling of obesity and the promotion of healthy eating in schools’ has highlighted not just parental involvement in tackling obesity, but also suggests measures that schools could take to promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition, coupled with the provision of physical education to prevent obesity before it becomes established.

Some of the recommendations made by the Committee include:

• The introduction of an outright ban on vending machines which dispense unhealthy foods and drinks in schools. Unhealthy foods and drinks should no longer be available for sale in school canteens/shops;
• Fresh drinking water to should be freely available to all school going children in Ireland;
• Consideration should be given to exploring the possibility that the revenue generated from the sugar tax should be used for initiatives which aim to promote a healthy weight and an active lifestyle for all;
• Break times should to be targeted to promote increased activity in children and that the provision of fixed playgrounds in primary schools where possible should be given consideration by the Minister for Education and Skills;
• Schools without access to physical education facilities should be prioritised under the school building programme so that the roll-out of physical education as an examinable subject to all post-primary students can be facilitated if the Minister for Education and Skills decide to do so;
• Where possible, lands and green spaces should be protected for schools’ use for sports and exercise, and the construction of playgrounds, gyms and other exercise facilities;

Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, Fiona O’Loughlin TD, said today, “The Joint Committee is gravely concerned about prevalence of childhood obesity in Ireland and the potential for a future health epidemic. With this in mind, we decided to focus on producing a report that would make practical recommendations that could be incorporated in the Government’s plans for tackling childhood obesity. The Committee’s focus is on the measures that can be taken and implemented at school level, including greater access to physical education (P.E) and the banning of unhealthy snacks from school vending machines and canteens.”

“Childhood obesity is a problem across the developed world and it is a complex problem, in that it is driven by biological, behavioural, and contextual factors. The unaffordability of healthy foods in comparison to processed foods is an issue that needs to be tackled globally. In Ireland, if we are to deal with a problem which costs the State approximately €1 billion annually in treating individuals who are overweight or obese, it is essential that on-going and sustainable school programmes, teacher training, and training for communities and parents are in place to reverse obesity trends.”

“The Committee hopes that this report will inform the Minister for Education’s policy development in this area and we look forward to seeing the implementation of some or all of our recommendations.”

Read the report here

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Committee membership

Deputies

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Senators

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Independent