Junkfood Science: Government obesity tests for 4-year-olds

December 11, 2007

Government obesity tests for 4-year-olds

How will parents feel when they learn that their child’s doctor is doing tests on their youngster and turning the results over to the government, not because the tests are evidence-based or medically necessary, but because the doctor is being paid $45 apiece? How will doctors feel about politicians determining their clinical practice?

Australians will soon find out.

At the National Childhood Obesity Summit in Sydney today, newly appointed parliamentary Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, told audiences about the Federal Government’s plan for all four-year-old children to have their body mass indexes measured. For each assessment, general practitioners and clinics will get $45 from Medicare.

Calling it “The Healthy Kids Check,” she said it will “ensure our four-year-olds are healthy, fit and ready to learn when they start primary school.” According to The Age, Mrs. Roxon said that the Government has made obesity one of the top national health priorities and the checks will become mandatory in 2009. The obesity tests will affect 225,000 children every year.

The Rudd Labor Government is also creating a guide called “Healthy Habits for Life” to tell parents how to develop healthy habits in their children to prevent obesity. The Government is spending $3.5 million to write and distribute these guides on ‘healthy’ eating and activity.

At a speech to the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity in September, Mrs. Roxon called for action now and described the Government’s efforts to tackle obesity by focusing on early childhood interventions. The Healthy Kids Check and Healthy Habits for Life programs are part of plans to provide a year of universal preschool for four year olds, she said, that will include fifteen hours of active play and direction on healthy eating. The formal development of these programs began in April when Federal Labor had already committed $450 million towards universal government preschool for all four year olds.

The Government has also earmarked $1.7 million for community-based anti-obesity programs, such as the “Romp and Chomp” program for under five-year olds to teach them active play and healthy eating. As she said in her speech: “The concentration of major community projects aimed at preventing obesity in Australia is the largest in the world.”

Also at the Obesity Summit today, an economist called for school report cards to report on the daily exercise done by each pupil. Dr. Paul Gross said: “You can see schools telling parents about the progression of their children with BMI and physical activity. To me that's just as legitimate a report as the progress on mathematics or latin or any other subject they do at school.”

Politicians and economists creating public health policies based on popularized myths of childhood obesity and lacking any medical evidence is bad enough. The risks for these little ones are worse. At least children still have two critical advocates: Doctors who won’t allow their medical practices to be expropriated to fulfill political agendas and parents who will opt out, if they can.

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