The call for children to be regularly weighed at school is causing a stir – but is it really as bad as it sounds?
Your child hops into the car after school crying. Not because they’ve been called fat in the playground again, but because now it’s happening in the classroom and following them home. There’s on an O on their report card, an O for Obese.
This is the scenario being painted by the media coverage of a new report. This report from the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University has called for children to be regularly weighed in school.
Lead author of the report Dr Katie Lacy says this isn’t actually what was in the report.
“It is a misconception that parents would receive report cards on their child’s weight. Providing assessments of individual children’s weight status is not the purpose of collecting height and weight data.
“A monitoring program would provide population-level data on obesity prevalence in children that could be used for many purposes,” Lacy says.
“For example, the data could be used to evaluate the effectiveness of childhood obesity preventive efforts, detect geographic or demographic subgroups at greatest risk of obesity, direct and inform policies, practices and services, generate community awareness and assess progress towards achieving obesity-related public health targets.”
Currently, almost a quarter of our kids are overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. So there’s need for action. But the proposal is, understandably, causing widespread heated debate.
As a parent you may worry regular weigh-ins will increase the risk of your child having body image issues, eating disorders or becoming the victim of bullying.
Obesity specialist Dr Janet Franklin says you have reason to be concerned. While she agrees there’s need for national obesity statistics, from her experience in similar studies it’s difficult to control the results. “Having gone into schools and weighed many children myself, the difficulty is that the children discuss it amongst themselves and often the teachers ask the children what their weight is, even though we have stressed that it is not a good idea,” says Franklin who is a member of HFG’s editorial advisory board.
“More needs to be done to decrease the stigmatization of excess weight in our society. Until this is addressed weighing people is always going to be difficult and controversial.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the move point out that a similar program in Arkansas in the US found, after three years, there had been no significant increase in victimisation based around weight results.
So should you allow your child to be weighed? We’ll keep you posted with any developments. Until then we’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.