THE head of the country's only childhood obesity clinic has warned that the next decade will be a 'nightmare' for the health system if overweight children cannot access treatment.
Currently one-in-four primary school children is either obese or overweight.
Dr Grace O'Malley, the director of the W82GO clinic in Temple Street hospital said that they get around 400 referrals every year but it is only able to take on around half.
"Obesity is the biggest problem we have in children's health. If we don't get on top of it the next 10 years will be a nightmare," she warned.
W82Go in Temple Street offers a range of treatment options and the course taken can differ depending on where a child lives the doctor noted.
"This absolutely needs to be rolled out around the country. We have some pilot schemes in place with the HSE to train community-based workers to deal with weight issues in children," she said.
"Everyone should have access to this service at a local level."
"Children often present with other problems such as hip or back pain or asthma brought on by their weight," she told the Herald.
All patients who are sent to the clinic are assessed as there can be underlying problems.
"The majority of the cases we see are due to lifestyle," the physiotherapist said.
"There are a lot of confusing messages in the media about food, and families are confused. They may have tried a lot of things with nothing working out," she said.
"Hydration is a big issue and, of course, activity - we try to get them up off their bottoms as much as we can," she continued.
"The big thing is that most kids are playing online now and we have to address this."
There are a number of factors which can feed into obesity in children, including emotional upheaval.
An information evening will be held tomorrow in Temple Street for parents of children under seven. Details can be found online at www.w82go.ie