New NHS guidance says school nurses and public health official have to tone down the way they tell parents their child is overweight.
The NHS doesn’t want parents to think their parenting skills are being criticised (even though they are) and that letters sent to parents should be “non-judgmental and positively phrased”.
So the new letters, redesigned after consultation with parents and experts, contain no references to obesity and its potential consequences such as heart disease or cancer.
So even if your child is very overweight, or obese, the letter will only refer to possible effects on self-confidence and facing health problems later in life – nothing specific.
Campaigners at the National Obesity Forum say they are horrified that such letters have been sent in the past rather than speaking with parents face to face and offering “tough love” and calling a spade a spade.
Last year more than a million children were measured at school and almost a quarter of children in reception year were found to be overweight or obese. By year 6 this had risen to 1 child in 3. Almost 10% of children were clinically obese when they started primary school and the percentage had doubled to 20% by the time they left.
The Observer yesterday reported on a 10-yr old girl weighing more than 24 stones (with a BMI of 71) and an 11-year old boy who weighed 23 stones (with a BMI of 84). I know BMI has been discredited of late especially for athletes and muscular people but given that the normal range of BMI is between 18.5 and 25 and over 40 is considered morbidly obese, you have to admit the weight of these kids is scary.
But back to the NHS advice: Public Health England said it had “listened to feedback from parents and local authorities and as a result the template letter has been simplified to make it easier to read and more personal”.
This sounds like a load of PC rubbish to me. How is it more personal? Which parents have they listened to? Isn’t it better to upset a few parents if you are potentially improving their child’s health?
Obese people – and 26% of the UK population falls into this category – are at a higher risk of hear disease, diabetes, cancer and joint problems and obese children also run the risk of being bullied. If you count overweight people they make up 60% of the UK population.
Contrast this softly, softly approach with Mayor Bloomberg in New York. He’s been trying to change things by banning super-size sugary drinks ie 16oz and over. He’s had his decision overturned in an appeals court which thought he was over-reaching his authority. The soft drinks industry is fighting a strong rearguard action similar to the tobacco giants.