RCPI Policy Group on Obesity

RCPI: Tackling Ireland’s Obesity Epidemic

Our physicians are committed to tackling the major factors that cause obesity including our unhealthy diets, our sedentary lifestyles and our obesogenic environment.

The RCPI Policy Group on Obesity was established in 2014 and was chaired by Professor Donal O’Shea, a Consultant Endocrinologist, and Professor Catherine Hayes, a Public Health Specialist.

Members of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity were doctors working in all areas of the Irish health system, who saw patients suffering as a consequence of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

The RCPI Policy Group on Obesity has influenced the national health agenda and clinical training programmes to help doctors and the public understand and address the causes of obesity. 

Through its work, this group wanted to ensure those who are suffering from overweight and obesity would be offered appropriate care.


Why Do We Need to take Action?

The WHO has warned that Ireland is on a dangerous trajectory to become one of the most obese countries in Europe.

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Prevention is the key to turning the tide of obesity.



"In the race to become the most obese country in Europe, Ireland looks set to win. Latest predictions estimate that by 2030, 90 per cent of Ireland’s population will be overweight or obese, the highest projected level of any European country."

RCPI Policy Group on Obesity

The race we don’t want to win - Tackling Ireland’s obesity epidemic, August 2014
Doctors on ward

What do we want?

We recommended a number of evidence-based measures in the following areas:

Public Health Policy

  • prohibition of TV advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) up to 9pm and a ban on marketing of HFSS foods to children
  • monitoring by government of all approaches to food marketing, sponsorship and brand management directly or indirectly aimed at children
  • introduction of a front-of-pack, traffic light food labelling system
  • introduction of a 20 per cent tax on sugar sweetened drinks (SSDs)
  • consistent application and monitoring of local area planning guidelines on the location of fast food outlets throughout the country
  • built environment planning that facilitates and encourages people to be physically active including promotion of active travel through planning regulations and guidelines, and continued investment in necessary infrastructure.

Healthcare, Education and Community Settings

  • adoption of a ‘weight aware’ ethos in all clinical services
  • providing a majority (at least 60 per cent) of healthy options in food service facilities in healthcare settings and providing only healthy options in children’s units
  • a commitment from schools to allow free play and physical activity in school playgrounds/recreation areas
  • better provision of healthy food choices in school breakfast clubs, supported by funding, adequate facilities and promotion of nutritional guidelines
  • use of the profile and influence of sporting organisations and sports people in communities to promote physical activity and consumption of healthy, rather than unhealthy, food and drinks.

Everyday Clinical Practice

  • record overweight/obesity using the same principles as chronic disease, including recording Body Mass Index (BMI) above the normal range on the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD)
  • make weight measurement standard practice with each professional contact
  • provide advice to women and partners on optimising weight prior to pregnancy
  • encourage women to exercise to a light or moderate level in pregnancy
  • emphasise the benefits of breastfeeding for the weight of the child
  • highlight healthy weaning practices with parents
  • identify and address early instances where mothers are overweight during the years following delivery
  • monitor growth of all children aged 0-4 years according to the HSE’s Best Health for Children Guidelines
  • emphasise the benefits to mental wellbeing of being a healthy weight
  • in managing psychiatric illness, consider the potential for rapid development of obesity as a side effect of certain drugs, communicate the risks to patients and take action to mitigate the effects.

Medical Education and Training 

  • development of an educational programme in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland around weight management for all health professionals (including trainers), with the support of a Royal College of Physicians of Ireland lead
  • establishment of a national multi-disciplinary weight management training group to liaise with undergraduate and postgraduate training bodies to incorporate core elements of weight management training future curricula
  • establishment of an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) role in the care of obesity and related diseases (bariatric care)
  • support for obesity research across all disciplines.
Blood Pressure

Treatment and Management of Obesity

  • ensure children and adults who are overweight/obese have access to an integrated obesity treatment and weight management service within community, primary and secondary care settings providing evidence-based models of care according to their need
  • appoint a National Clinical Lead for Obesity with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the treatment and management aspects of the National Obesity Strategy
  • identify and scale up budgetary allocations for obesity treatment.
  • support ongoing data collection and surveillance of overweight/obesity as a key component of Ireland’s ehealth Strategy. Collate data on all sections of the population and across all healthcare settings via a centralised obesity data hub
  • educate all healthcare professionals on the management of obesity at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and educate all relevant government department and non-governmental organisational staff
  • resource adequate levels of healthcare staff and appropriate equipment to deal with individuals who are obese in all healthcare facilities.

Many recommendations from this group are reflected in the National Obesity Policy and Action Plan.

Our Publications

In 2014 the group published its first policy statement focusing on prevention of obesity. This policy statement was updated in 2017 by the RCPI Policy Group on Ageing, to reflect the specific needs of the older population.  The expert report on how to clinically manage and treat obesity in Ireland was also revised and age-attuned in 2017. 


Members of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity

Prof Donal O’Shea (Co-Chair) Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, St Vincent's University Hospital and St. Columcille's Hospital
Prof Catherine Hayes (Co-Chair) Faculty of Public Health Medicine, RCPI
Prof Hilary Hoey Faculty of Paediatrics, RCPI
Dr Vivion Crowley Faculty of Pathology, RCPI
Prof Michael Turner Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists
Dr Brendan O’Shea Irish College of General Practitioners
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan Safefood
Dr Siobhan Jennings Prevention of Chronic Disease Programme
Dr Abbie Lane College of Psychiatrists of Ireland
Dr Andrew Maree Irish Cardiac Society
Prof Walter McNicholas Irish Thoracic Society
Helen McAvoy/Elizabeth Mitchell Institute of Public Health
Ms Triona Keane Irish Heart Foundation
Dr Jean O'Connell RCPI Postgraduate Specialist Training
Prof Humphrey O'Connor President, Irish Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Gillian Paul RCSI, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery
Prof Ivan Perry Health Research Board Centre for Diet and Health Research
Prof John Ryan Faculty of Sports and Exercise Science, RCSI/RCPI
Ms Ruth Yoder Psychological Society of Ireland
Ms Cathy Breen Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute
Mr Donal Buggy Irish Cancer Society
Prof Cecily Kelleher
School of Public, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin
Dr Sinead Murphy Temple Street Children's Hospital

Contact us

For information on our policy work on obesity contact:

Mairéad Heffron

Policy Specialist

Tel: +353 (0)86 8148027

Contact Mairéad for queries relating to our policy groups or if you have an idea for a policy paper.