Families ignore health warnings about obese children
27th July 2011
Dr David Haslam, a leading GP and chairman of the UK’s National Obesity Forum, last night said that parents of obese children are simply ignoring warnings and advice, and any heavy-handed tactics aimed at getting families to ask for help is a waste of time. Dr Haslam was commenting in regards to a recently published study which showed that most parents who receive letters regarding potential health risks to their overweight child, are actually doing almost nothing about it. Dr Haslam, a Hertfordshire based GP, argues the research shows that more efficient and better ways are needed to motivate the child and the parents of that particular child into doing something about the issue. “Sending letters to parents is a waste of time. The problem is not lack of access to obese children and adults, it’s getting them engaged and motivated into losing weight and keeping it off in the long term.” “It’s the duty of the healthcare professional, doctor, or nurse, when they see a patient whose weight is putting their health at risk to seize the moment – children’s lives are at stake.” The aforementioned study was conducted by experts at Bristol University, who sent letters to 285 families, all of whom had a child aged between five and 16 who were in the “obese” category on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. These letters informed the families that their child was substantially overweight and provided them with an opportunity to consult their GP regarding the matter. A mere 47% bothered to speak to a GP and only 15% of those managed to end up with a record of their child’s weight within the GP’s records. This would seem to indicate that the problem had not been extensively looked in to, whether this be due to the parent’s or GP’s reluctance. Dr Jonathan Banks, researcher at the University’s school of social and community medicine, had this to say: “Previous research has found that parents of overweight children find it difficult to seek help from a health professional and that many do not recognise overweight or obesity in their children” He further added “It might be expected that parents who were unsure about how to deal with their child’s weight would be prompted by the letter, but the very low take-up suggests resistance to addressing the issue.”