Published by BBC NEWS - 18th May 2023
  • Published
Teddy, Michael and baby AdalineImage source, Abbey Burrow

A mother has criticised a government childhood obesity programme after she was told one of her twin sons was overweight.

Abbey Burrow, from Essex, was informed son Michael, five, was overweight but his brother, Teddy, who weighs 300g less, was not.

Research has suggested the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) could lead to “anxiety and embarrassment”.

The programme is reviewed yearly.

“I was completely shocked by it” said mother-of-three Ms Burrow, speaking to BBC Essex.

Teddy, Michael and baby Adaline

Image source, Abbey Burrow

The NCMP is part of the government’s strategy on tackling childhood obesity.

Local authorities are asked to collect the body mass index (BMI) of children in reception and year-six at school and the data is used to help form government policy.

Parents and carers can choose to withdraw their child from the test.

Ms Burrow said: “If I knew this was going to happen, I would have opted out.

“I agree it is important to monitor whether children are healthy and of healthy weights, I do totally get that, but maybe there are other ways to go about it.

“I just think it’s not really fair to decide whether they’re healthy or unhealthy based on a one-off measurement at school.

“They are asking me whether he needs any help with diet and exercise.”

The 31-year-old hairdresser, who moved with her family from Australia to Brentwood in 2020, said both she and her husband experienced bullying at school for their size and did not want her children to experience similar anxiety.

Ms Burrow said she was called by a private company, on behalf of the county council, who informed her Michael was on the 91st percentile for BMI.

She has weighed Michael at home at 21.5kg (3.38 stone) and Teddy at 21.2kg (3.34 stone).

Abbey Burrow

Image source, Abbey Burrow

Dr Gavin Sandercock, from the School of Sport, Rehab and Exercise Science at the University of Essex, said: “What a single measurement, at a single time point, in a 5-year-old can tell us about their health – is pretty much nothing”.

“Using BMI as an indicator for further investigation might be a better way of doing it.”

Dr Meredith K.D. Hawking, who asked for parent views on the NCMP at Queen Mary University of London, said in February there were “legitimate concerns” about child self-perception.

As a result she suggested “meaningful regulation” of the food industry would better address childhood obesity.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The NCMP helps to inform action taken at both a local and national level to improve the health of all children and promote a healthier weight.

“Our approach to the programme is reviewed every year, in consultation with a wide range of experts, as well as children and families, school nurses and headteachers.”

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