Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BODY POLITIC

Fat chance of hitting obesity targets

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 11 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:71
  1. Nigel Hawkes, health editor, the Times

    The government's half hearted approach to public health may explain why health inequalities are widening

    How fat are Britain's children? For heaven's sake don't ask the Department of Health.

    In an exercise laughable even by the quite demanding standards the department normally sets, the first attempt to measure overweight and obesity in first year primary schoolchildren and in 10-11 year olds has proved a total fiasco.

    It took 18 months, and an expert committee 30 strong, to work out how to make the measurements in the first place. Their conclusion, unsurprisingly, was that the best way to work out if children are overweight is to weigh and measure them. Then a simple calculation, or a modest piece of software, can convert height and weight into body mass index.

    Given the national panic over obesity, punctuated by regular warnings that today's children will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents, you might at this point have expected some serious action. The government has, after all, set a target of halting the rise in childhood obesity by 2010. What followed, however, was a textbook example of how not …

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