Children from poorer areas ‘significantly’ more likely to be obese

HSE-commissioned report finds DEIS students spend more time watching television

Children in DEIS schools less likely to eat fresh fruit daily compared to those in others schools

Children in DEIS schools less likely to eat fresh fruit daily compared to those in others schools

 

Children from disadvantaged communities are eating less fruit and vegetables and watching twice as much television as their peers, a new report shows.

The report, Descriptives of Childhood Obesity Factors, was commissioned by the HSE and carried out by the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre at UCD. It found “significant differences” in risk factors depending on socio economic circumstances.

Children in third class who attended schools under the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity Schools) programme were less likely to eat fresh fruit daily (45.5 per cent) compared to those in others schools (61.1 per cent).

DEIS schools are specifically designed to help children at risk of or experiencing educational disadvantage. Children from these schools were also less likely to eat vegetables daily (41.6 per cent) compared to students in other schools (56.2 per cent).

About 61.3 per cent of first-class children attending DEIS schools spent two hours or more watching television during the week compared to just 30.2 per cent in other schools.

Overall, DEIS students from surveyed families also spent more time watching television at weekends.

However, first class DEIS schoolchildren were more likely to play outside for three hours or more at weekends (75 per cent) compared to students in other schools (51 per cent).

In addition, some 29.3 per cent of first class children in DEIS schools walked or cycled to schools, compared with 14 per cent in other schools.

The report collected information on first and third class students through family questionnaires issued in 2010 and 2012. This was in to collect data on possible predictors of childhood obesity. Approximately 3,000 families took part in the study.

Over the study period, more than nine out of ten children from both first and third class were found to eat breakfast every morning.

“Almost two-thirds of first-class children ate fruit on a daily basis while just under half of children ate vegetables on a daily basis,” said lead author Dr Mirjam Heinen of UCD’s School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science.

“Our research also showed that sugary drinks were becoming less popular in children’s diets with more parents saying their kids only sometimes or never consumed these in 2012 (50.4 per cent) than 2010 (40.6 per cent),” added Dr Heinen.

More than 80 per cent of first-class students were members of a sports club with almost three quarters participating in activities at least two days a week. Over three-quarters of first-class students travelled to school in a motorised vehicle during the same year.

“These findings highlight the need for policies that tackle overweight and obesity by working effectively with children and their families in schools to promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing,” said National Nutrition Surveillance Centre director Cecily Kelleher.