Child obesity data 'flawed'

Official childhood obesity statistics published last month are flawed, according to a school and public health expert.

School nurses should be handed control of obesity strategies in schools, both to improve the standard of the data and to help use it more effectively, said Ros Godson, professional officer for school and public health at the CPHVA.

Data published by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care show that in 2006/7 23 per cent of children in reception classes and 32 per cent in year six were overweight or obese. 19 per cent of boys in year six were obese, compared to 16 per cent of girls. BMI measurements were taken for 80 per cent of eligible children in English schools in these two school years.

But Ms Godson said the validity of BMI measurements on children was questionable: ‘There is no definitive BMI for children; only for adults. Children develop at different times: an 11-year-old summer-born boy may be three years from puberty, but an 11-year-old autumn born girl may have been pre-pubertal since she was seven, and may be almost at her adult height and weight. You are simply not comparing like with like.'

An Information Centre spokeswoman said its data reflected NICE guidance on BMI thresholds.

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