In a response to the country's growing childhood obesity epidemic, the HSE has launched a new initiative to monitor weight in young schoolchildren and take action on their weight problems.
The HSE, in collaboration with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), is starting a growth monitoring project as part of the school healthcheck among junior and senior infants in four pilot sites around the country.
Children of consenting parents will have their height, weight and growth plotted, and all parents will get their child's results along with the regular results of sight and hearing tests in a sealed envelope to be taken home by the child.
The envelope will include a self-help booklet for all parents.
Children deemed to be overweight or obese will receive 'Your Child's Weight- a Guide to Preventing Childhood Obesity', while normal weight or underweight children will receive a guide on healthy eating and exercise.
As part of the project, parents of overweight children will be followed up for further health promotion advice, referred to online self-help resources and/or community cases services or prevention programmes.
Obese children and their parents will be offered a year-long community-based lifestyle intervention programme delivered by a specialist healthcare team including dietitians, psychologists and doctors.
This programme has been successfully delivered at Temple Street Children's Hospital for the past five years.
The programme is to be piloted shortly in schools in parts of Cork City and Mayo as well as in Dublin 15, with a fourth site to be announced shortly. It is planned to screen 1,800 schoolchildren in each of the four areas.
As the programme works with the families of overweight or obese children, any clinically obese or at-risk siblings may also be included in the intervention programme, according to the HSE/ICGP.
The success of the scheme will be evaluated by the autumn of 2016. If successful, the HSE says it plans to roll out the programme nationally on a phased basis.
Kids' weight not being checked by GPs
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