NI parents reducing the risk of childhood obesity

Health Minister welcomes safefood research that indicates parents making positive changes to children’s diets and physical activity habits.

30 March, 2015. Northern Ireland parents are making positive and practical changes to their children’s eating and physical activity habits in an effort to reduce the risks of childhood obesity.

That’s the message today from safefood as they launch new research to coincide with the first year of their three year campaign to tackle the everyday habits which can lead to childhood obesity.

The research¹ revealed a significant increase in the daily consumption of water by children at meal times (+15%) and a reduction in the daily consumption of fizzy drinks (-5%).

It also found that parents are now serving more age-appropriate portion sizes to children (+7%) and an increase in the amount of children getting one hour of physical activity per day (+16%). 

The findings highlighted a significant increase in awareness among parents that excess weight in childhood is associated with poorer health in later life (+16%) and that more parents were open to discussing the issue of their child’s weight if they needed to (+21%).

Welcoming the research, Health Minister Jim Wells said:

I am grateful for all efforts to address overweight and obesity in our society. safefood is an important delivery partner in my Department’s Obesity Prevention Strategy, ‘A Fitter Future For All’, and they contribute to public information campaigns that are designed to make both parents and children think more about their eating habits and encourage them to be more physically active in their daily routine. It is vital that we continue to raise public awareness of the risks to long term health that obesity can bring and endeavour to change behaviours that lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood continued: “Parents are making concrete efforts to develop everyday habits associated with a healthy weight in childhood. While it’s really encouraging and heartening to see that parents report making these practical changes, it’s much too early to say that we’ve won the battle against childhood obesity.

“As a society we didn’t reach this child weight crisis overnight nor will it be solved in one year but these results highlight that our campaign messages have really resonated with parents. It’s not easy to cut down on sugary foods when children have become used to overindulging but parents are making really important changes; it’s vital now to keep up this positive momentum for the health of our children.”

The three year, all island campaign to take on childhood obesity by safefood in partnership with the ‘Fitter Futures for All’ Implementation Plan in Northern Ireland and the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework in the Republic of Ireland, urges parents to make practical changes to everyday lifestyle habits which would make a big difference to their children’s future health.

Dr Tracy Owen from the Public Health Agency (PHA) added: “Childhood is a crucial time to establish healthy eating and physical activity behaviours for later life. While the findings of this research show that we are moving in the right direction, there is still much more to be done. Parents and carers have a key role in instilling a culture of eating well and engaging in physical activity from an early age. This will help ensure that children are then equipped with the knowledge and opportunity to make healthier choices throughout their lives.”

To find out more about the safefood campaign including how-to videos from health experts and practical advice for parents, visit: 

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For further information please contact

ASG PR: Russell Lever  028 9080 2000 / 077 8828 8901/

safefood: Fiona Gilligan +353 (0) 87 989 1682 / Julie Carroll +353 (0) 86 601 6005

Editor’s notes




Consumption of water by children at mealtimes:



Consumption of fizzy drinks by children once a day or more



Serving more age appropriate portion sizes to children



Children getting at least an hour’s physical activity a day



Increase in parental awareness of long-term consequences of excess weight in childhood





Parents confidence in discussing weight with their children if needed





Millward Brown/safefood 2015. Face to face survey of 919 parents with children aged under 12 on the island of Ireland.

The messages being promoted by the safefood campaign are:

  • Give child size portions to children, not adult sized ones
  • Reduce ‘Treat’ foods – small amounts and not every day
  • Allow plenty of Sleep for healthy growth and development
  • Reduce Screen time to a max of 2 hours day
  • Be more physically Activity 60 minutes plus every day
  • Give less Sugary drinks and more water


¹ Millward Brown Lansdowne/safefood 2015