Junkfood Science: Weight report cards for school children — A namby pamby or fat-headed policy?

August 06, 2008

Weight report cards for school children — A namby pamby or fat-headed policy?

The proposals to eradicate fat children from the UK and U.S. that have been pouring from health officials have become so overridden by irrationality, that there’s no point in cataloguing them anymore. The lack of evidence for their necessity, the biological implausibilities of their solutions, and the body of evidence showing every one of them doesn’t work and puts all size children at risk for harm — is, or should be, known by medical and nutrition professionals who work with children. But these programs for compulsory “healthy eating” (as some define it) and exercise in children, BMI screenings, and “nutrition education” to teach weight management to little kids aren’t about facts or for their health.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail Reporter described a squabble with officials about labeling kids ‘obese’ or ‘overweight’ when the national measuring programme measures school children at age 4 and 10, and sends weight reports home to their parents. As if a word will change the stigma directed towards the children or will magically create any evidence in support of the need of officials to tell parents if their child is a “healthy” weight, “educate them about the dangers of obesity,” and “equip them with the information they need to help their children live healthier lives.”

The decision not to use the word ‘obese’ on the children’s weight report cards has infuriated obesity interests. Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, was quoted as saying this decision was “tip-toeing through the daffodils.” Using the term ‘obese’ is “the kind of shock word that makes parents sit up and take notice,” he said. “It's a nasty word but by god it should sound alarm bells in parents' minds. I find this whole approach from the Department of Health a bit prissy and namby pamby.”

The measuring programme has receive especially harsh criticism from obesity campaigners, according to the newspaper, “because parents can opt out of having their child included.” It’s claimed that parents of fat children are the ones more likely to opt out and “miss out” on their helpful obesity interventions. They never imagined that parents of all-size children wish to protect their children from harmful weight and food concerns, and their families from unwanted government intrusions.

Instead of looking to officials to know what’s best, parents are just saying “no.” One parent wrote a must-read article in the Times today, explaining why he and his wife, and other parents like them, are opting out and refusing to let their children be weighed. Mike Hume explains why “the government’s fat-headed policy on obesity should be boycotted:”

It appears my wife and I have upset the Government, as part of the small minority of parents who refused to have our 11-year-old child weighed and measured in school last term. The authorities worry that it was the parents of fat children who opted out. Or it could have been parents like us, who object to being conscripted into a fat-headed crusade against child obesity that is heavy on political intrusion and light on proven effectiveness.

Letters are to be sent to parents whose children were weighed, giving a “mark” ranging from “underweight” through “healthy weight” to “very overweight”...whatever words they use, the message is clear: that the authorities have the right to decide whether or not our children are living “healthy lives.” They want to measure not only body mass but moral worth, to decide whether our children fit the State's model. The most likely results will be to produce miserable kids and anxious parents.

Noting that there is no sound evidence behind all of this talk of a child obesity epidemic or that these interventions offer any benefits, he recognizes that they do single out children for harassment and ridicule, something which no body-conscious pre-teen needs. But the greatest concern lies in how the obesity issue, on the backs of children, is being used to teach the populace to accept government oversight:

Yet the authorities throw their substantial weight behind every stunt from policing lunchboxes to weighing children like little piggies. At a time when governments have lowered horizons from creating the Good Society to moulding the Healthy Citizen, the anti-obesity crusade legitimises public monitoring of private behaviour. Ours is an age when bullies can no longer call children fatty in the playground. Yet it is deemed legitimate for government to bully them and their parents, using obesity as a bogeyman in scary stories about how we are killing our kids.

It will be a joyless world for children if we turn the pleasures of food, drink and play into problems of “healthy living”... Today the pious warn us about our unhealthy lifestyles rather than our sins...

[Full article here.]

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