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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Child obesity alert plan pondered
An obese child
Obesity is linked to a number of health problems
Parents in England may be warned if their children are found to be overweight, under government proposals.

Children in England are currently measured at the ages of five and 10, but parents are informed of the results only if they request them.

The new plan may see parents getting results automatically.

The Department of Health said ministers were prepared to go further and faster in the fight against childhood obesity, but no firm decisions had been made.

Between a quarter and a third of children are thought to be overweight, and doctors fear there will be an epidemic of poor health related to obesity in coming decades.

The most success you can possibly have is being vigilant in both what you're eating and how much of it you are eating
Dr Terry Dovey

An obese person dies on average nine years earlier than somebody of normal weight, while a very obese person's life is cut short by an average of 13 years.

Under the proposals being considered, information obtained under the measurement programme could be given automatically to parents, and involvement may become compulsory unless people choose to opt out of the measurement scheme.

Early education

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said child obesity was a "huge problem to overcome".

He said: "It's a good thing in the sense that if the government expects parents to [have] prime responsibility for the raising of their children, it is absolutely essential that they should know what the healthy range of weight is.

Why should tax payers pay for parents that don't feed their children correctly?
Georgina, Camberley

"We would think, in fact, this whole thing has got to start earlier.

"If you start earlier, around the age of two and three from nursery, then you've got the time to start to implant the healthy eating, healthy exercise education, which will then carry them through school."

Mr Fry added that the forum would even like to start to promote this mode of lifestyle "from conception".

'Key stages'

But Dr Terry Dovey, a psychologist at the University of Staffordshire who specialises in childhood obesity, said "stigmatising" children and parents for having an overweight child was not the way forward.

He said: "The most success you can possibly have is being vigilant in both what you're eating and how much of it you are eating.

"If you're wanting to target specific groups then you have to have the key stages in the process to help the child and parents."

A recent report by the Foresight Programme argued that dramatic and comprehensive action was required to stop the majority of us becoming obese by 2050.

Its authors predicted that if current trends continue, in that year, 60% of men and half of women will be obese and cases of type 2 diabetes will rise by 70%.

The report also suggested that cases of stroke will rise by 30% by the middle of the century and cases of coronary heart disease will rise by 20%.

Should the government warn parents if their children become overweight?
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