The Government has shown a ‘marked lack of urgency' when it comes to implementing policies aimed at reducing overweight and obesity in children, Irish Heart has claimed.
The charity, which works to tackle heart disease and stroke, made its comments to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Government's obesity policy and action plan, A Healthy Weight for Ireland.
According to Irish Heart health promotion manager, Janis Morrissey, little has been done in this area over the last year to protect our children's future health.
"We have to stop tinkering around the edges of the obesity crisis and implement decisive policies that can make a difference. Already we have children as young as eight with high blood pressure and young people displaying the early signs of heart disease, that in the past were rarely seen until middle age," she noted.
The charity emphasised that obese children are more likely to become obese adults, which in turn increases their risk of developing a number of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Obese children may experience hypertension (high blood pressure), early markers of heart disease and insulin resistance, which precedes the development of type 2 diabetes.
Excess weight can also have a major impact on mental health.
A Healthy Weight for Ireland contained a 10-step action programme, ‘Ten Steps Forward'. However according to Ms Morrissey, little progress has been made in implementing these steps, apart from the recent appointment of Prof Donal O'Shea as the national clinical lead for obesity, and measures already agreed before the launch, such as the introduction of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax in 2018.
"No implementation oversight group has even been appointed yet, let alone the promised delivery of the first annual evaluation of progress under the plan. As usual there is plenty being said about what is going to be done, but very little action," Ms Morrissey said.
Areas which have seen little or no progress include:
-The introduction of mandatory calorie posting on menus
-Tacking the causal link between the marketing of junk food to children and child obesity, particularly by the regulation of digital marketing
-Targeting resources in disadvantaged areas where obesity levels are highest.
"Despite the huge threat of young people developing early risks for heart disease, we believe there is a continuing lack of political will across Government to take the action necessary to reduce obesity levels.
"The longer this continues the more of the current generation of children will be condemned to lives dominated by ill health, chronic disease and, ultimately, premature death," Ms Morrissey added.
For more information on Irish Heart, click here