School children at break time playing on climbing frame
School children at break time playing on climbing frame SolStock

Parents fear school yard fat-shaming could worsen with plan

WARWICK parents have voiced their fears for children's mental health if the Federal Government follows through on a proposal to record the weight and height of children in primary school.

Calls to put primary-aged children on the scales at school are being considered following a submission by the Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE) to the Federal Government's inquiry into the nation's "obesity epidemic".

Under the proposal, checks would be done for all children in Year 1 and Year 6 at minimum, or every two years at best, to help the government understand the real scope of the worsening problem.

But Warwick mother Amber Stubbings said the data-gathering strategy could have devastating consequences for children's mental health.

As a mother of children who went through school in larger-sized bodies, Ms Stubbings has seen first-hand the impact an emphasis on weight can have on young children.

"I think weighing each student in a public manner has the potential to be very shameful," she said.

"I think it will bring an unnecessary focus onto their weight and we need to remember that mental health has a massive impact on small children."


SCALES IN SCHOOL: Warwick Dietician Elia Faa asks whether the benefits of weighing kids to collect obesity data would outweigh the
Bringing scales into the classroom could pose risks to kids according to Warwick Dietician Elia Faa. JohnnyGreig

Ms Stubbings said the scheme could have negative consequences for parents as well.

"Having children that were larger in school from a parent's perspective is difficult because you do see a lot of censure and judgment from other people's eyes and often you are doing as much as you possibly can as a parent," she said.

GLOBE's Professor Steve Allender said the checks were necessary to improve data surrounding the multi-billion dollar crisis that affected two-thirds of adults.

"It's time we had better information to make good decisions about improving the health of our kids for the future," Prof Allender said.

"There are probably communities in Australia who are doing a really good job of improving the health of our kids and we can't learn from them and improve the health of the whole nation unless we understand who is doing well."

But Warwick dietician Elia Faa questioned whether the information obtained from weighing children would be worth the risk.

"I think it is probably too simplistic and is not going to be that informative," Ms Faa said.


SCALES IN SCHOOL: Warwick Dietician Elia Faa asks whether the benefits of weighing kids to collect obesity data would outweigh the
Advocates say weighing primary school children could provide valuable health and population data. JohnnyGreig

"It is a very blunt data set just measuring weight: it doesn't tell you much about health.

"I think there are a lot of risks to highlight weight as a factor for kids and would have to be done very sensitively."

Ms Faa said routinely weighing children in school could risk adding to our society's focus on weight.

"I never talk about weight with my clients unless they specifically want to," she said.

"I am not interested in weight, I am interested in health.

"But we know many kids are already getting teased and shamed about size and shape."

Ms Faa also expressed concerns the correlation between obesity and low socio-eocomic groups could be highlighted.

Weight checks would be done by medical professionals and the data collected for research and policy purposes.