UCL News


UCL in the News: How fat is your child?

29 September 2007

Researchers at UCL are already working with the Department of Health to see what happens when the results of the school weighings are fed back to parents.

A pilot scheme with six London schools has just finished. "When we told some parents that their child was overweight they were shocked," says Helen Croker [UCL Epidemiology & Public Health], who led the research. "Deep down some suspected that their children were, but because so many children are now overweight, it's harder to tell. It's no longer the case that the overweight ones stand out from the others." …

Recent UCL research found that among 500 children in nursery and reception classes in the outer London area, only 6 per cent of parents with overweight or obese children described their child as overweight. …

The secret, says Croker, is making parents aware, without stigmatising them and their overweight child. The first year of the Government's school-weighing programme was far from a success. Only half of the eligible children were weighed, largely because parents opted out of the scheme. It seems to have been the parents of larger children who refused to take part, and the reason, according to Croker, may be that they saw it as possibly casting them in a bad light.

She believes that the way forward may be to make fat a future issue. If all parents understand that everyone, whatever their age and weight, is likely to become overweight unless healthy eating and exercise become a priority, it won't seem so dreadful to be regularly consulting BMI guides to see how your child is shaping up. "A blame culture doesn't help," she says. "There isn't a family in the country that's perfect." …

Simon Crompton, 'The Times'