GPs should co-ordinate advice to prevent child obesity, MPs say

GPs should take the lead role in co-ordinating weight management advice and services to help avoid child obesity, according to report by MPs.

Dr Sarah Wollaston: child obesity warning (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Sarah Wollaston: child obesity warning (Photo: JH Lancy)

A report by the House of Commons health and social care select committee demands a more joined-up approach to tackling child obesity.

MPs warned that a revamped childhood obesity plan - expected to be published soon - should 'include specific measures to ensure that data on child measurement are able to flow effectively between different parts of the health and social care system to the child’s GP. GPs should then take 'primary responsibility' for weight management advice and services, the report says.

The report cited evidence from the Obesity Health Alliance's Professor Russell Viner, who told the committee that primary care systems were currently 'not designed to allow GPs simply to make every contact count'.

Weight management

He warned that data from child measurement at birth was 'often not written down', and data gathered on children early in their lives was 'not gathered in one place'.

Giving evidence to the committee Professor Viner said: 'They are measured exceptionally well by the national child measurement programme at four and at school leaving at 11, but between birth and four the data are in no particular place, sometimes in the parent’s red book, and after 11 there is no measurement.

'The data systems should work together; it should be held by parents and by GPs. There should be systems that allow GPs to record and act upon that data purely through signposting.'

The report also calls for a further measurement point to be considered for addition to the child measurement programme, which currently sees children's weight checked at birth, age four and 11, along with measures such as wider restrictions on advertising and pricing of junk food.

Child obesity

Health and social care committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston said: 'Children are becoming obese at an earlier age and staying obese for longer. Obesity rates are highest for children from the most disadvantaged communities and this unacceptable health inequality has widened every year since records began. The consequences for these children are appalling and this can no longer be ignored.'

BMA board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: 'This new report reflects some of our deepest concerns about childhood obesity. With the UK displaying the highest levels of obesity in western Europe and one in three children overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, it’s hard to find families unaffected by this health issue which urgently needs addressing.'

Professor Kumar highlighted the damaging impact of cuts to public health services that had led to reductions in weight management services. GPonline reported earlier this year that around one in four GPs had seen reductions in weight management services commissioned from their practice.

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