Rise in childhood obesity caused by pandemic reinforces need for preventative action - Bradshaw

Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has called on as many people as possible to respond to forthcoming Department of Health consultations on a Regional Obesity Management Service and Framework to Prevent Harm, especially given growing evidence that childhood obesity rose significantly during the pandemic.

Paula Bradshaw

The South Belfast MLA stated: "A fundamental aspect of the transformation and improvement of healthcare in Northern Ireland must be taking steps to improve well-being and to intervene early on preventable conditions. The consultations are very clear about the lifelong impact of obesity on health, and the steps which may be taken to restrict or reverse the harm arising from it.

"Unfortunately, it was always clear that the pandemic would cause a significant challenge in this regard, and peer-reviewed research from England is now clear that obesity rates rose sharply in 10- and 11-year-olds and have not returned to normal levels.

"The research shows that the fundamental issue is that certain lifestyles became, by necessity, established during the pandemic but have not reverted to what may be regarded as 'normal' in terms of diet and exercise. This will require sensitive but strong intervention to improve food choices and increase physical activity across all age groups, but particularly in children and young people. Otherwise, unfortunately, we will see an entirely predictable rise in rates of diabetes, stroke and some cancers, among other diseases.

"I would urge people to respond to the consultations to see what kind of change we can deliver collectively to improve the long-term health and well-being of children and young people impacted by the pandemic."