Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures

Department of Health & Department for children, schools and families
February 12th 2009

Both NOF and its sister charity concerned at the level of childhood obesity in the UK, the Child Growth Foundation [CGF], are flabbergasted at this document.  It recommends absolutely no routine measure whatsoever capable of identifying the early signs of pre-school unhealthy weight gain despite stating repeatedly how urgently obesity must be addressed in the UK.  Both charities have consistently urged Government actively to make provision for picking up children at risk of piling on the pounds at an age when lifestyle messages may best be learnt by them.  The best time is during the pre-school years and children‚ growth should be assessed at specific early years ages in the same way that there are agreed ages for vaccinations.

Body Mass Index [BMI] should be recorded from at least the second year of life so that children with severe or progressive obesity can be in the hands of a paediatrician before the age of 2.  This is the target of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health [RCPCH] published in 2002 and, concurrently, will achieve the aim of the Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson.  In his 2002 Annual Report for 2002 he directed that ‚"... health professionals ‚ including general practitioners, school nurses, practice nurses and health visitors ‚should identify early signs of obesity in children and offer interventions at an early stage...".

When prevention is so much easier than cure, NOF/CGF fails to understand why children are left to become overweight/obese by age 4 before the Department of Health recommends any meaningful growth assessment.  Even at this age [Primary School Reception Year] BMI is taken only for public health statistical purposes and not to identify any child at risk.  The PH exercise is carried out again in Yr 6 but still without individual assessment.  These statistics show that 25% of children are overweight/obese by school entry and the figures have risen to 33% by the transition to secondary school.

The Select Committee of the House of Commons recommended in 2004 that every child should be assessed every year but the DH/DCSF have consistently ignored its recommendation.   With Healthy Lives, Brighter Futures their failure to recommend anything for school health, however, borders on the inept.  Written boldly in a strategic document published a full year after it was promised, DH/DCSF admit that they still have to develop the school-age elements of the Health Child Programme!  It will be published in 2009, they say but with their track record of punctuality, don't hold your breath.