Is weighing children at school the best way to tackle childhood obesity?
A Queensland paediatrician has called for students to be routinely weighed at school in an effort to tackle childhood obesity.
The call comes after the recent Queensland election where the Labor Party promised to fund specialist nurses to carry out vision and hearing tests in schools.
Associate Professor Gary Leong from the University of Queensland argues that in the midst of a growing obesity problem in Australia, routinely measuring the weight and height of children and reporting issues to parents will help tackle the problem. He says it should be included as part of the standard tests conducted by the proposed new school nurses.
The problem of childhood obesity in Australia is a serious one. We know that overweight children have an increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues and problems with their joints. The old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ rings true.
But introducing weight measurement initiatives in schools comes with complications.
Height and weight don’t offer parents a whole picture of health. A heavy child may be perfectly healthy, but in a higher percentile compared to the average. Parents will need more information than just their child’s weight.
Children who are at risk of developing eating disorders may be adversely affected by being weighed in a school environment.
Finally, weighing students in schools won't stop the over exposure of children to junk food advertising or make food with poor nutritional value harder to obtain.
Tackling child health issues will take more than just measuring their height and weight. It will also require better standards on the advertising of junk food to children, providing easy to understand nutritional information to consumers and parents, and better funding of nutritional health services so more families have access to the assistance they need.
There is no doubt that children should be weighed. Keeping an eye on the development and growth of a child is essential to monitoring their health. But it should be done in such a way where it contributes to an overall picture of an individual child's health. And it can not be the only initiative we take.
Do you agree we should be weighing children in schools?
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