Child health experts warn parents about childhood obesity

Sat, 17 Jul 2010
Child health experts have said that some parents of obese children may be guilty of neglect, and that their failure to properly control their child's diet and exercise is a child protection issue. Obesity is an increasingly a contributory factor for diabetes .

The research team from the UCL Institute of Child Health in London have argued that a failure to heed advice about children's diet and exercise is neglectful, although they admit that the weight of a child on its own is not sufficient reason to involve child protection staff. However, in an article published in the British Medical Journal, they say that it may be appropriate to bring in child protection agencies if the parents consistently fail to change their children's lifestyle and ignore outside help.

Although the team admit that it is difficult to establish when obesity is based on neglect, due to the pressure to eat too much and exercise too little, and that "for some parents, it is very difficult to stop their child gaining weight", they do argue that there is more concern if obesity is putting a child at risk of disease, such as diabetes.

The article points out that "Parental failure to provide their children with adequate treatment for a chronic illness (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc) is a well accepted reason for a child protection registration for neglect. We suggest that childhood obesity becomes a child protection concern when parents behave in a way that actively promotes treatment failure in a child who is at serious risk from obesity and when the parents or carers understand what is required, and are helped to engage with the treatment programme."

The study examined the evidence for any link between childhood obesity and neglect, as there are no real official guidelines for professionals to follow. The paper called for the introduction of such formal advice as an urgent necessity.
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