Weight screening to be rolled out in schools
CHILDREN in infant classes are to be weighed and measured in the next school year as part of a new pilot scheme by the Health Service Executive.
The screening of children in the five- to six-year-old age group will be offered to parents in four pilots areas of Mayo, Laois-Offaly, Dublin 15 and Cork city.
Dr Cate Hartigan, head of health promotion and improvement in the HSE, said: "Parents will be given feedback on their child's growth, and if required, advice on steps they can take at home to ensure they rebalance diet and activity levels as their child grows.
"Any children whose growth results show signs of clinical obesity will be offered a community-based lifestyle intervention programme, based on the successful W82GO programme delivered by the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street."
However, Dr Francis Finucane, an endocrinologist in Galway University Hospital, pointed to questions about the benefits of obesity screening programmes for young people.
"An important consideration in any screening initiative is the evidence base that effective therapeutic interventions are available for individuals who are identified as being at risk.
"Screening for sight problems, we know that there are treatments. The evidence for obesity interventions in the community is less strong.
"Another potential problem is false reassurance in those children who may be just below the risk threshold. The most important concern is the potential distress to children labelled as having a problem."
Andrienne Lynam, a health promotion officer in the HSE, said parents could turn down the offer if they wished.
If a child is a certain weight the HSE will try to intervene with the whole family, directing children to self-help and active after-school programmes as well as linking up with local groups, such as the hurling club.