Leading health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has called for government action to tackle obesity amongst children.

“Nearly one in ten – 8% – of children in Northern Ireland are classified as obese. This is a terrible situation and may well have an effect on these children for the rest of their lives. We must take action immediately.” Said Neil Johnston, Public Affairs Adviser for NICHS.

NICHS is campaigning to ensure that all primary school children in NI get at least two hours PE a week. The charity is hosting an event to highlight the position in Northern Ireland and to call for action.

“Northern Ireland is the least active nation in the UK with only 43.3% of children getting 60 minutes of daily exercise. Only 8% of schools in Northern Ireland supply their pupils with 2 hours of PE a week while in Scotland 98% supply their schools with 2 hours of PE a week. For the sake of our children’s future health it is imperative that we take action.” Said Mr Johnston

According to the Health Survey NI 2016/2017 25% of children are either obese or overweight; and 8% of children are obese. Studies by government  have shown that obesity and overweightness are estimated to cost the Northern Ireland economy and health service £370m a year.

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke are hosting a lunchtime seminar with speakers from Northern Ireland and Scotland  to look at the issue of childhood obesity and how the levels of PE in primary schools could be used to address this.

“The subject is particularly pertinent at the moment as Northern Ireland will soon start to receive its proportion of the proceeds of the ‘Sugar Levy’ which could be used to fund policy interventions. We have seen what can be achieved in terms of PE across in Scotland and it is high time we had a plan to tackle the problem in Northern Ireland. The proposal for 2 hours per week has been carefully researched and cost by the Ulster University we believe it is achievable and should be implemented without delay using our share of the ‘Sugar Levy’.”

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