Partnership key to addressing obesity in young people

Workshop highlights island of Ireland and European approaches at tackling obesity

15 June, 2010. safefood and the All-island Obesity Action forum today hosted a workshop which looked at a European model in use for tackling obesity in young people and specifically, the experiences of the EPODE European Network (France) which adopted a partnership approach to addressing this serious public health issue. At present, approximately one in five boys and one in four girls starting primary school are classified as being overweight or obese [1].

By fostering a partnership approach on an all island basis and creating channels for co-operation, safefood and the All-island Obesity Action Forum see the immediate need for enhanced and new partnerships for dealing with the increasing levels of obesity and to be inspired by the experiences and learning of others in this field.

The keynote address at the event was given by Christophe Roy, Deputy Director of the EPODE European Network, France. “A multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral sustained approach is needed at national and local level to make the difference in preventing childhood overweight and obesity”, said Mr. Roy.

It is internationally recognised that all those involved, from the food industry to health agencies, to schools and parents must work together in tackling current obesity levels in children. Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said. ”Statistics tell us that on the island of Ireland, children are getting heavier on a yearly basis. We know that unfortunately, overweight and obese children are at a greater risk of becoming obese adults e.g. the risk of an obese 4 year old becoming an obese adult is four times that of a normal weight child. As a society, we must act together to protect our children from the health risks of diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease in early adulthood that are all real dangers for overweight and obese children. The EPODE type of approach seems helpful and we must borrow from other’s help and experiences”

staff posing outside the forum

Pictured at this event from left to right: Ms Corina Glennon, Community Dietician Manager, HSE Dublin Mid - Leinster; Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood; Marita Hennessey Research Fellow safefood; Mr Christophe Roy, Deputy Director EPODE European Network France; Ms Claire Mc Ginley, Project Manager - CAWT and Marian Faughnan, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood

Commenting on the workshop Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood, said “We are delighted to have Christophe with us to share the European experience of tackling obesity and the role that partnership can play, particularly for children’s health. I believe that continued collaboration between industry, health professionals and consumers can help in the fight against obesity. The obesity forum provides an ideal platform for joined-up thinking and action on the island of Ireland. As an agency with a remit across two jurisdictions, safefood realises the value of partnership in tackling the issue of obesity”.

Attended by a cross section of key stakeholders in physical activity, food and other obesity related areas, the workshop event also included roundtable discussions, Q&A sessions and networking opportunities. Key speakers on the day included:-

  • Ms. Claire McGinley, Project Manager, Cooperation & Working Together
  • Mr. Seamus Mullen, Assistant Investing for Health Manager, PHA
  • Dr. Marian Faughnan, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood
  • Ms. Corina Glennon, Community Dietitian Manager, HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster

The All-island Obesity Action Forum comprises of a range of stakeholders including government departments, health agencies, professional bodies, stakeholders working in the field of public health and academic and industry representatives. The forum includes representation from stakeholders with a remit in both healthy eating and physical activity to maximise cohesion. A major function of this group is to identify common action areas in the obesity reduction policies in both Northern Ireland (NI) and Republic of Ireland (ROI) and to facilitate the exchange of good practice and promote networking on the island of island. The forum is facilitated and supported by safefood.

For more information or to register your interest in attending the next All Island Obesity Action Forum networking event, please contact the safefood helpline on 1850 40 4567 (ROI), 0800 085 1683 (NI) or email


For further information please contact

Sarah Young / Sarah Eakin


Telephone: 028 9039 5511/ 028 9039 5521

Email: /


[1] In 2003/2004, approximately one in five boys and one in four girls in Northern Ireland were overweight or obese in primary one, age 4½ – 5½ years according to analysis of the Child Health System records (DHSSPS 2006)

Editor’s Notes

  • The World Health Organisation has estimated that over 700 million people will be obese by 2015
  • The EPODE programme is a methodology designed to involve all relevant local stakeholders in an integrated and concrete prevention program aimed at facilitating the adoption of healthier lifestyles in the everyday life. The programmes developed on the basis of the EPODE framework are long term, aimed at changing the environment and thereby the unhealthy behaviours. The approach is ’positive, concrete and stepwise’ learning process with no stigmatization of any culture, food habits, overweight and obesity. The first EPODE programme was started in France in 2003 and EPODE now extends to nearly 1.8 million inhabitants in 167 French cities, 20 cities in Spain and 8 cities in Belgium.
  • Research conducted as part of the NI Young Hearts Study of over 2,000 children aged 12 and 15 living in NI in the year 2000, reported that 15.6% of all subjects were overweight and 4.3% were obese. It also reported that the percentage of children who were overweight or obese increased by more than a quarter in little over a decade (Watkins et al. 2005).