Scrap school ‘fat letters’ and boost youth activity, urge health experts
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Scrap school ‘fat letters’ and boost youth activity, urge health experts

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Health experts are calling on the government to scrap the so-called ‘fat letters’ posted to parents in England to tell them if their child is overweight and instead offer more guidance for fostering healthy lifestyles.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) wants the government to ditch the crude letters and use its forthcoming childhood obesity strategy – a joint project between Public Health England, the Department of Health and the Department for Education – to bring in measures such as mandatory hour a day of ‘fun and play’ in primary schools to increase activity levels. It is also calling for parents who receive ‘fat letters’ to instead be telephoned with offers for their children to gain access to after school activity clubs to incentivise better dietary and exercise habits.

The calls to action appear in a new RSPH position paper Tackling the UK’s childhood obesity epidemic, published today (10 November). The report follows recent offerings such as ukactive’s Blueprint for an Active Britain and Public Health England’s What Works in Schools and Colleges to Increase Physical Activity? in calling for physical activity to play a far more prominent role in the school day. Currently, only 21 per cent of boys and 16 per cent of girls aged 5-15 years old meet the recommended guidelines of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity every day – with participation figures continuing to fall.

“It is unacceptable that one in five children leave primary school classed as obese and we must all pull together to reverse this worrying trend,” said the CEO of RSPH, Shirley Cramer.

“We hope the government’s forthcoming obesity strategy will include many of our suggestions for action at all levels, particularly around the promotion of junk food to children, encouraging reformulation of food and drink products, particularly around sugar content, and increasing activity levels among children.”

Cramer added that parents need to be given additional support and receive more engaging dialogue so that they can help to promote healthy lifestyles for their children.

Meanwhile, Dean Horridge, founder and CEO of Fit For Sport and chair of ukactive Kids, said the government should do away with BMI as a measure of health and instead look more closely at activity levels.

"The Child Measurement Programme has never been an effective way to tackle obesity: Body Mass Index can often give a flawed result and gives no real indication of a child's health or fitness,” said Horridge.

"Rather than accusatory letters, providing far better support and advice around how to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle as a family could have a far greater impact on tackling childhood obesity and inactivity, which too often go hand in hand."

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Health experts are calling on the government to scrap the so-called ‘fat letters’ posted to parents in England to tell them if their child is overweight and instead offer more guidance for fostering healthy lifestyles.
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