During a trial scheme in Manchester, kids who were weighed at school and had annual weight reports sent home to their parents were more likely to maintain a healthy weight and decrease BMI between reports.
The scheme, which ran in St Mary’s primary in Moss Side, found that children outside of the weight scheme were more likely to increase their BMI between reports. The school used a system called the children’s health and monitoring programme (Champ) and results from the Manchester study have now been passed to ministers working on reducing childhood obesity.
“You can normalise the size of your children because you see them every day,” Jenny McGarry, the head teacher of St Mary’s, told The Times. “It’s when you actually look at how they compare nationally or to what is desirable that the information is very powerful.”
Champ was founded by Gill Heaton, the deputy chief executive of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. Its website says it “helps parents/carers to understand their children’s growth and to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle”.
Parents of children at schools participating in the scheme can use the online portal to view their child’s measurements, whenever they please, track progress and access information and support to keep healthy. The founders argue that a child’s growth pattern is a “fundamental indicator” of health and wellbeing as well as a predictor of future health and wellbeing.
The site also signposts parents and guardians to activities and services in their area which can help build on their child’s healthy lifestyle. “It became clear to me that because we only weighed children in reception and year six, the intervening years were a complete wilderness,” said Heaton. “As children get older their habits are formed and it’s much harder to break them when they’re 10 or 11.”
Commenting on the results of the study, Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum said Manchester has set the bar for the rest of the UK to follow. “Today [Tuesday 8 May] the Royal College of Paediatrics will testify to the Health Select Committee that children should also be measured from infancy,” he said. “Manchester is rightly anticipating expanding its programme. A preschool Champ has the potential of making a significant dent in our overweight and obesity figures currently standing at 25%.”
For more information on the Champ scheme, visit their website.
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