YOU GET AN “F” FOR FAT
How would you feel if your child was regularly weighed at school, as part of a national plan to combat childhood obesity?
That is the proposal from a team of researchers at Melbourne’s Deakin University. In an article in the journal Pediatric Obesity, the researchers argue that a national weight database is important because: “The absence of a uniform approach to monitoring height and weight of children puts Australia behind other countries in tracking the epidemic and evaluating the effectiveness of strategies to reduce population prevalence.”
Put simply – something we academics are not great at doing – we need to create a national dataset to monitor the weight of all Australian children as part of a national initiative to prevent childhood obesity.
Children would be routinely weighed to collect this data, unless a parent or guardian explicitly withdrew consent.
This is not the first time such a proposal has been raised by academics and health experts. In some countries, weight-based ‘report cards’ are sent home to parents. The rationale for this is that many parents simply don’t realise that their children are overweight or obese.
Personally, I find that hard to believe.
Nevertheless, in places such as the United Kingdom, the US, some parts of Europe and Malaysia, ‘Body Mass Index Report Cards’ are sent home alongside educational achievement. As the Huffington Post reported: Forget the familiar A, B and C on your child’s report card – the new letters to look out for could be B, M and I.
If YOUR kids were ‘failing’ Weight as well as English and Maths, would you want to know?
While there is no suggestion that this would happen in Australia – this additional measuring of height and weight will simply be added to other types of developmental data that is already collected in schools – initiatives aimed at weighing children have been met with concerns.
- Whether or not it is appropriate to collect this data in schools;
- Whether these initiatives would lead to children being teased or bullied by their peers – obese children already report the highest rates of being bullied of all children; or
- Whether more children would end up developing disordered patterns of weight loss or body dissatisfaction as a result.
We already know that body image is a major concern of young people in Australia, so would this type of data collection merely amplify those concerns?
There are many sides to this debate.
Firstly, some rightly argue that childhood obesity is a growing national and international ‘problem’. Those of you who saw the terrific doco on the ABC recently about Globesity you will have seen that obesity is indeed a big challenge for the health of many nations.
But unsurprisingly, and as outlined in the documentary, much of that challenge lies less in getting individuals to ‘behave’ in the right way, and more in tackling the very big interests of the Big Food Industry and how they market their products particularly towards children.
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