Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs

Tackling Childhood Obesity: Discussion

9:30 am

Dr. John Sharry:

Parents Plus has developed a number of parenting programmes but the programme we are talking about is the healthy families programme. The research has shown that the most promising approach if one really wants to intervene, and this is shown internationally, is to deliver an educational, supported programme to parents that is delivered in the community. This would bring together eight to ten families who all attend a school and would be advertised very positively about being a healthy positive family. The families and parents would come together over six to eight weeks. They would be given ideas on nutrition, healthy lifestyles, but also the important things regarding how to implement these things, how to handle behaviour, how to set up good routines and things like that, as well as how they can motivate themselves and their children to change positively. A key part of that is to break the whole blame and stigma in this because, usually when people are overweight, they are blamed for that, that somehow they have made poor choices. One cannot even raise the issue with a child or a parent in that situation because the stigma is so strong when actually they should be told, it is not their fault, it is the environment in which the person has been brought up. Effectively the person has been abused by their environment, literally. We want to empower people not to feel bad but to make positive empowering choices by bringing them together in groups and helping them do that.

For example, parents could campaign to not have junk food advertised to their children. They could campaign not to have the tuck shop selling unhealthy foods or for parties not to offer fizzy drinks. One of the most successful initiatives was the healthy lunches projects in schools. Its success is evidenced by the fact we are not doing it anymore. We bring parents and groups together to make those very empowering choices.