Poll reveals health fears for children

Child eating a cake
Child eating a cake

Obesity and mental health are the two biggest problems facing children on the island of Ireland, doctors have warned.

A study carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) showed nine in every 10 paediatricians were worried about weight problems among youngsters.

Six in 10 said they were treating more and more children with anxiety, depression and who are self-harming.

The medical organisation, which today opens its Irish office in Belfast, polled its 529 members on both sides of the border to find out what the key issues are in child health here.

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the RCPCH, said the results clearly showed obesity and mental health are the two major priorities that must be tackled in Ireland.

“Getting key public health messages out to families early is essential if we are to reduce the numbers of children suffering obesity and mental health-related illness,” she said.

The poll found:

l Nearly two-thirds of Irish paediatricians have seen an increase in obesity-related illnesses over the past two years;

l More than nine in 10 worry that children with mental health problems aren’t able to receive treatment quickly enough;

l Nearly eight in 10 doctors reported a rise in cases of anxiety, 37 per cent cited more cases of self-harm and 24 per cent are seeing more children suffering with depression.

Underfunded services, a lack of early intervention and rota issues were blamed for children not getting the treatment they needed for mental health issues in time.

“Overall, 27 per cent of children are now classed as overweight or obese in Ireland - a figure which has doubled in the last 15 years,” said Dr Cass.

“In addition to this, nearly 20 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are now overweight or obese before they start primary school – and judging from the findings from this public poll, more must be done to raise public health awareness.”