Background: The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in developed countries appears to be levelling off. As trends in childhood obesity prevalence have not been examined over the past decade in the Republic of Ireland, this systematic review aims to compile and synthesise all available information on the prevalence of overweight and obesity in primary school aged children between 2002 and 2012.
Methods: Systematic review of published and grey literature containing data on objectively measured height and weight. Inclusion criteria included studies where data was collected between 2002 and 2012 from at least 200 primary school aged children in the Republic of Ireland. Database searching, Google searching, reference searching and contact with obesity experts was undertaken. Overweight, obesity and morbid obesity were defined using standard International Obesity Taskforce definitions. Study quality was assessed.
Results: Fourteen studies (16 prevalence estimates) met the inclusion criteria. The combined prevalence of overweight and obesity within the studies ranged from 20-34%. No significant trend in overweight prevalence over time was observed (p=0.6). However, there was evidence of a slight decrease in obesity prevalence over the period (p=0.01), with a similar though non-significant decline in the prevalence of morbid obesity (p=0.2).
Conclusion: The findings of this systematic review require cautious interpretation though the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in the Republic of Ireland has reached a plateau and may be falling. These findings provide some ground for optimism though the current plateau is at an unacceptably high level. Thus current population based preventive strategies need to be sustained and intensified.