Poll reveals doctors' health fears for children

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 ten paediatricians was worried about weight problems among youngsters.

Six in ten 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 they 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:

:: Nearly two thirds of Irish paediatricians have seen an increase in obesity related illnesses over the past two years.

:: More than nine in ten worry that children with mental health problems aren’t able to receive treatment quickly enough.

:: Nearly eight in ten doctors reported a rise in cases of anxiety, 37% cited more cases of self-harm and 24% 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% of children are now classed as overweight or obese in Ireland - a figure which has doubled in the last 15 years,” added Dr Cass.

“In addition to this, nearly 20% of children in the 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.”

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