There was an interesting article in Friday’s Sun Newspaper by Emily Ashton with regard to new guidelines for informing parents on childhood obesity. HOOP was asked to comment. The story was reported by nearly all the major newspapers. The full Sun article is here followed by HOOP’s full response.
Schools to tone down warnings for obese children after barmy new guidelines
By EMILY ASHTON
SCHOOL nurses have been ordered to stop giving parents the hard truth about their obese kids in annual letters home — in case they feel insulted.
Barmy new NHS guidance says reports should be toned down so they are “non-judgmental and positively phrased”.
Officials warn that mums and dads may “feel that their parenting skills are being criticised” if they are told their kids are too fat.
New “template” letters suggesting what should be said have been issued by Public Health England for schools ahead of this year’s weigh-ins starting in September.
Parents whose children are heaviest will be told the kids are “very overweight” rather than “clinically obese”.
Letters sent out last year warned obese kids could face “heart disease and some types of cancer”.
But this year they will simply warn of “high blood pressure, early signs of type 2 diabetes and low self-confidence” in later life.
In a separate letter sent to parents of “overweight” kids, two sentences have been removed.
These were: “You might be surprised your child’s result is in the overweight range.
“It can sometimes be difficult to tell if your child is overweight as they may look similar to other children but more are overweight than ever before.”
Yvonne Burgess, from Blackpool, was one mum who got the letter. It spurred her to help daughter Emily, 13, to lose more than 2½ stone.
Shop owner Yvonne, 45, said: “It’s not a letter any parent wants to get, but it was the wake-up call we needed. We didn’t like it, but it did jolt us into losing weight.”
The new soft approach carries none of the punch needed as child obesity soars to record levels. It’s a worthy winner of a Sun Non-Sense Award — our campaign to highlight the battiness of rule-makers.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Dr Donald Macgregor said: “It’s important parents are not hidden from the facts.”
Jill Tipping of obesity charity Hoop added: “No parent wants to hear their child is overweight but steps need to be taken.”
Obesity expert Zoe Harcombe said: “Parents need to know the risks such as heart disease and cancer.”
Pupils are weighed as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, introduced in 2006.
Figures for 2011-12 showed more than a THIRD of Year Six pupils and 23 per cent of Reception kids were overweight or obese.
Dr Ann Hoskins of PHE said: “Letters are intended to encourage parents to ensure children eat well and exercise.”
CAROL COOPER, Sun Doctor said
PARENTS are responsible for their child’s weight. Children follow their parents’ lead and until they have their own money they eat what’s available at home.
Being overweight can affect almost all aspects of health so if a little one’s too heavy it’s only right to be sure parents know.
There’s no point beating about the bush. Parents of overweight kids need to have it pointed out in a way that’s honest, to the point, and easy to understand.
The snag is that it’s hard to hit the right note with just a few written lines, especially when it’s about health.
There are also families who are distrustful of authority in whatever form. They’re bound to feel threatened.
But sugar-coating the message won’t help overweight kids.
Case Study No.1: Why not chat?
MUM-of-three Leanne Kane says six-year-old son Tayler has become “picky” with food since a school letter arrived saying he was obese.
She said: “The letter said he was just two points away from being clinically obese. I was really angry.
“There’s no way that’s true. It’s really affected him — he keeps saying to me, ‘Am I fat, mum?’. What right do they have to tell me that my lively, healthy son is too fat?”
Leanne, pictured with Tayler and partner Luke, 29, from Basildon, Essex, added: “I would rather have been called into the school to talk about this.
“We could have chatted about Tayler’s diet and I could have raised my concerns. I wasn’t even asked if they could weigh him.
“I grew up with a complex about my weight, and it’s the last thing I want for my active son.”
Case Study No.2: My ‘fat tot’ fury
BRADLEY, aged four
MUM-of-three Gemma Dawson said her four-year-old son Bradley was branded obese by a doctor and health visitor when he was just 18 months old.
Gemma, 23, said: “I was told to put him on a diet. They told me to stop giving him milk and that even if he cried I had to refuse him because, according to their charts, he was ‘obese’.
“I was furious. And then we were sent a letter about his weight. I felt it was very insensitive.
“Doctors now seem obsessed with BMI charts and your child has to fit in with the average. But surely they all grow at different levels?”
Gemma and Bradley live with her partner Chris, 33, Summer, two, and Ruby, one, in Wakefield, West Yorks.
She added: “His nursery school has been telling me he’s ‘chunky’. But surely it shouldn’t be up to a school to tell me what to feed my kid.
“I’m not going to give him a complex about being fat for the rest of his life.”
No parent wants to hear that their child is overweight and it is a sensitive subject, but the fact is that over 30% of our children in this country are overweight, so steps need to be taken. Letters home can be a shock but we feel that the problem is that there has been no suggestions within the letter as to where the parents can get non-judgemental support and advice to help their child. This was one of the main reasons why HOOP was set up in the first place and what we aim to change.
It’s not so much what is in the letter that is an issue – it’s what is missing!
What do you think?