A report by UNICEF has provided mixed news for Irish parents with its findings ranging from very good to seriously bad. The report listed an average rank in the four elements of child well-being: material well-being, health, education, and behaviours and risks.
The report examined data from 2001 to 2010 for 29 developed OECD countries and ranked The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden at the top of the list with the UK in 16th place and the US in 21st place. The listing of Ireland in 10th place is relatively good but does however mask some shortcomings in the Irish treatment of its younger citizens.
Ireland ranked tenth overall with the report finding:
- The Irish Child poverty rate of 8.5% is below the OECD average
- Alcohol use among 11 to 15 year old children sees Ireland in 14th place with the US in 1st place (least number of children who reported being drunk at least twice) and the UK in 23rd place. Cannabis use by the same age group saw Ireland in 13th place, the UK in 21st place and the US in 25th place.
- There has been a large decline in child and teenage smoking with Ireland ranked in 6th place, the US in 4th place and the UK in 7th place.
- Ireland ranks 20th in number of births to teenage girls (15 to 19 years) with the UK in 27th place and the US in 29th place (most births)
- The number of children overweight is increasing and Ireland is behind the UK, Germany and France in this regard. 15% are rated as overweight using the BMI scale. In the UK the rate is 12% while in the US it is 28%
- Ireland has the highest rate of child exercise with the US in 2nd place and the UK tenth place.
- In the 15 to 19 year old bracket Ireland is at the bottom of the list with regard to unemployment (includes not being in school or training)
- Participation in third level education (15 to 19 years old) sees Ireland in third place (92% participation) with the US in 25th place (82%), and the UK in 29th (73%).
- In terms of health and safety Ireland ranked 15th of the 29 countries.
- In education terms Ireland ranked 17th
- In housing and environment Ireland ranked 2nd
- Homicide rates in the 29 countries sees the US in 27th place with just under 5 deaths per 100,000 citizens. Ireland is in 24th place (just over 2 deaths per 100,000 citizens) and the UK in 14th place.
The full report can be accessed here:
by Michael Green
There has been a big increase in the number of Irish women who smoke cigarettes. One in three Irish women now smoke regularly with lung cancer now overtaking breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death among women in Ireland.
Tobacco companies have been blamed for targeting women, depicting their products as glamorous and buying high-profile endorsements in television programs such as ‘Sex in the City’, among others. The desire of younger women especially to curb their weight has also led to an increase in smoking since the use of cigarettes curbs appetite.
Perhaps most depressing is the statistic released by the Irish Cancer Society revealing that among women in disadvantaged or poorer sections of Irish society the rate of smoking may be a high as 50%. It is quite clear that among such groups that smoking is seen as a ‘coming of age’ event with children starting to smoke younger and younger.
The World Health Organisation reports that smoking among men in developed countries is actually in decline yet among women smoking is on the increase. Recent WHO statistics have shown that of the near 59 Million deaths worldwide in 2004 nearly 10% were directly caused by smoking. The developing world (ie poorer countries than Western countries) account for 70% of these deaths, once again underlining the conclusion that smoking is much more prevalent among the poor.
A recent Australian study revealed the following rates of smoking internationally:
Afghanistan 50% Greece 39% Russia 35% India 32% Ireland 27% UK 24% Australia 18% Canada 17% USA 17% Iran 11%
by Michael Green
The Irish government looks set to follow the lead of several other countries and introduce a tax on sugary soft drinks such as lemonade and cola. It is expected that the tax will be a 10% hike in excise duty which would add about 20 cents to the cost of a 250 cents bottle of soda. The government is torn between wanting to reduce the intake of fattening foods and drinks in the general population while also not wanting to damage employment and add to household bills.
Efforts in Ireland to decrease the consumption of certain products by taxing them have had only limited success. Over the decades there have successive small increases in the price of cigarettes and alcohol. The tax hikes on cigarettes have very much outpaced those on alcohol and certainly do have an effect on consumption, especially when combined with the ban on smoking in the workplace and the current societal disapproval of tobacco. The overall momentum against smoking allowed successive governments to tax cigarettes heavily.
The same cannot be said about alcohol consumption. The policy of continually raising the tax on alcohol in small amounts has not had any great effect on consumption. Critics of the policy advocate for a single very large increase in tax on alcohol, perhaps even to increase the price by 50% or 100%, in order to have any kind of real shock impact. The revenue raised from this tax could be used for health education programs and even to fund hospital emergency departments that are inundated with alcohol-related patients every weekend.
The need for action in the food and drinks sector is now obvious. 60% of the Irish adult Irish population and nearly 25% of all 7-year-olds are classified as being either overweight or obese. By any measure this is a shocking statistic and is a recipe for a diabetes epidemic in the years to come, along with a whole other raft of health problems.
The introduction of a sugar tax on certain flattening products is likely a good idea, but unless it is of a sufficient amount then it seems certain that its impact will be minimal.