Ms Mitchell was speaking ahead of the international Taking Action on Childhood Obesity event which is being hosted by the Queen’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Queen’s Improving Children’s Lives initiative, on 11 November in the University’s Whitla Hall.
Leading obesity and childcare experts from across the world will descend on Queen’s to learn how research and best practice can be used to tackle this major public health concern.
Florence Mitchell said: “Over the last few decades there has been a worldwide increase in obesity. At a young age it is linked to immediate health risks such as asthma and type 2 diabetes, and there are longer-term health risks, including increased middle-age mortality and morbidity.
“With childhood obesity we have a ticking time bomb in our society. In light of recent cuts, and at a time of increasing financial pressure on the National Health Service, this can no longer be ignored by Government and wider society. Our politicians and health service managers must act now to tackle this problem at its root cause, or we will all share the pain in future years, with increased demand for services.
“I would urge anyone with an interest in this area to register for this vital event.”
The event will be opened by Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health for Northern Ireland. In her recent Annual Report she highlighted a number of Public Health programmes available in Northern Ireland to tackle obesity issues.
Speakers attending the event include Doctor Laura Stewart of Edinburgh’s Children’s Weight Clinic. She believes children ‘just have to eat less’ and that children should never be put on a diet, but instead be educated and supported in achieving a healthy lifestyle. She will look at how families must make lifestyle changes to tackle this growing epidemic.
Professor Paul Gately from Carnegie Weight Management, whose work has helped over 5,000 young people lose weight, will speak on the importance of public health and childcare professionals working together to tackle the problem.
And Dr Laura McGowan, a chartered psychologist from University College London who is currently working in the field of obesity prevention with families with young children, will discuss how psychology can help tackle childhood obesity. She will outline some promising interventions in this area.
Professor Peter Bundred, a leading academic in the field of the epidemiology of childhood obesity, and a former Senior Lecturer in Primary Care at the University of Liverpool, will argue that the epidemic is not necessarily caused by genetics, but by children’s behaviours and their environment. He said: “The increase of both carbohydrates and fats in children’s diets is a major factor in childhood obesity.
“Children take less exercise. Families are increasingly reliant on cars, and there are fewer facilities where children can play safely – so they tend to watch TV instead. Put simply their energy intake is now greater their energy expenditure.”
The Taking Action on Childhood Obesity event is open to anyone working in related sectors and registration is now open.
The closing date for registration is 3.00pm on Wednesday 10 November.
Media inqueries contact Donna McCullough 00 44 (0) 28 9097 5391 or 00 44 (0) 28 9097 3091