Leading Health Experts Call for Change in Approach to Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Schoolchildren in England are weight at the start and finish of their time at primary school and more than one million children were measured between 2013 and 2014. It was found that just under a quarter of children aged four and five were classed as obese or overweight.

In children aged 10-11, 30% were judged to be overweight.

This has sparked the government into action and the health service spends £4 billion on obesity related conditions every year.

However, some leading health experts have called for the letters received by parents to warn them about their child’s weight should be scrapped or changed.

According to The Royal Society for Public Health, many families find the information useful and fail to understand why their children are being weighed. However, the RSPH does agree that the service provides critical information.

The National Child Measurement Programme has been in action for 10 years and has made weigh-ins a mandatory task for local authorities.

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the RSPH, told reporters that many countries across the globe are envious of the programme because the UK is able to track children’s weight as they grow through primary school, meaning that things can be done about obesity.

The RSPH did find that although some local authorities handle the information well, not all share the positive view.

Parent Sara Gudgeon saw the so called ‘fat letter’ to be the wake-up call her family needed and was offered immediate help. She said that the letter steered both herself and her three children on a whole new path. They went to BeeZee Bodies, a support service that helped the family with fitness and cooking.

However, many other parents feel differently.

One parent with a four year old son received a letter from the Healthy Living and Obesity Service. The letter informed the mother that her son was overweight. She has worked for a paediatric dietician and believes that although her son is tall for his age, his weight is perfectly healthy. She believes local authorities should focus more of their attention on school dinners.

The parent, whose name is Steph, said that since her son started school he has been offered dessert after lunch on a daily basis. She does allow that he is offered the choice between sponge and custard (for example) or a healthier option, but asks how many four year olds would willingly choose the healthy option? She went on to say that her son would not get 20 desserts a month at home, as he does at school.

Another parent was shocked to receive a phone call from the family doctor after her five year old daughter, who lives a fit and active lifestyle, was weighed at school.

She said her daughter has two tall parents and the phone call has spurred her to book an appointment with the doctor despite feeling it will be a waste of the doctor’s time.

A mum called Nicci was left in tears after a letter declared her five year old ‘obese’. However, both a health visitor and her own GP found the child to be of a healthy weight.

Public Health England released a statement to say that local authorities are encouraged to let parents know the results regardless of how much the child weighs in as sensitive a manner as possible.