British school children to undergo obesity checks

Next year British school children will all be weighed in order to check obesity levels.

The new plans are a part of the Health and Social Care Bill which was introduced to Parliament on November 15th and is expected to be approved by September next year.

Children starting school at 4-5 years of age and year 6 pupils aged 10-11 will be weighed and have their height measured in order to monitor their health.

The results of the checks known as the National Child Measurement Programme, will then be sent to each child's parents as well as advice on what is best for their child's health.

Parents however will be allowed choose to opt out of the scheme, run by primary care trusts, which along with the National Health Service (NHS) provides services to primary schools.

The government Health Minister Ben Bradshaw says the legislation is not about telling parents what do, or lecturing them on how to raise their children, it is a way of supporting families in being healthy.

Bradshaw says giving parents clear information about their child's weight is an important way of engaging with families, and prompting a conversation about healthy lifestyles and weight issues within the home.

According to the government's Department of Health, 18 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls aged between 2 and 15 in England were classified obese in 2005 and tackling obesity is a top priority for the government.

Obesity seriously raises the risk of diabetes and heart disease and the government says the change is part of their commitment to make the NHS a service that prevents ill health, as well as treating it - a 'well being service, rather than a sickness service'.

The government has stopped short of making the National Child Measurement Programme introduced last year for five and 11-year-olds, compulsory.

Figures from last year showed that 538,400 children in both years were measured - about 48% of those eligible.

The Association of Public Health Observatories said the results had to be treated with "considerable caution" as there was evidence to suggest higher rates of opting out among heavier children.

The National Obesity Forum says the idea is good but parents may need a chart so they can plot the measurements in the future and keep track of how their child is progressing.

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