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Should primary school children be routinely screened for obesity?

24.04.2007
Primary school children should not be routinely screened for obesity without any sound evidence of benefit, suggests research published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

At present, 4 to 5 and 10 to 11 year olds are weighed at school and the anonymised information fed into the National Childhood Obesity Database as part of a monitoring programme.

In its 2004 report on obesity, the parliamentary Health Select Committee recommended that all schoolchildren be screened, the results fed back to parents, and overweight and obese children offered specialist treatment.

But a new systematic review assessing the research evidence on the effectiveness of weight monitoring to identify and treat children with obesity, has found no sound evidence of benefit.

What research that was found focused on how accurate weight monitoring was at diagnosing overweight and obesity.

There was little evidence about the attitudes of parents, children, or healthcare professionals to weight monitoring.

The researchers say that tracking individual children might help identify the long term health impacts of childhood obesity.

Dr Marie Westwood, who led the review team said “standardised population level monitoring is likely to be useful for gathering information on obesity trends, informing resource planning, and could help in assessing the impact of school based preventive initiatives to improve children’s diets and lifestyles.”

“However, it’s difficult to see how screening to identify individual children can be justified until evidence for the long term impact of interventions to treat obesity can be demonstrated”, she said

Dr Westwood said “Identification of effective weight reduction strategies for children and clarification of the role of preventative measures are priorities.”

Paul Wilson | alfa
Further information:
http://www.york.ac.uk
http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd

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