GPs fear parental negative reaction for weighing kids
GPs are reluctant to weigh children because they fear a negative reaction from the young person and their parent, according to a new study.
However, the majority of parents say that taking their child's weight during a routine visit would be useful, the findings show.
The study highlighted, however, that it did not go down well with parents of one out of four obese children.
This demonstrates the need for GPs to be provided with training on how to approach the parents and child as well as deal with any upset.
The study was led by Kildare GP Dr Brendan O'Shea and included others from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care in Trinity College as well as Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children.
It involved 390 GPs and 457 parents and pointed out that family doctors are not routinely checking a child's weight.
"GPs are frequently influenced by parental response when raising the matter of the child's weight; most find it difficult broaching the issue in consultation.
"When consulting with overweight children, less than one in 10 GPs indicated that they consistently raise the issue of weight during the consultation. Fewer than one in 20 GPs report consistently checking weight."
The results showed that 14.9pc of the children in the study were overweight and 10.9pc obese. A sample of 457 children were weighed, with 434 parents completing a telephone survey.
Eleven parents did not remember their child being weighed, and 11 declined to participate further.
Socio-economic deprivation, based on the fact the family has a medical card, was significantly associated with a child being overweight or obese.
"Overweight children are frequently part of overweight families, and these parents may feel defensive about comments on weight.
"Objectifying the weight of the child is an important first step in supporting long-term planning and assisting families.
"These results provide support for GPs and for other disciplines that are systematically checking children's weight."
Almost all of the parents surveyed believed that it would be helpful to check their child's weight, indicating a very high level of acceptability of this practice, said the study in the journal 'Archive Diseases of Childhood on Childhood'.
However, parents did report that just over one in four obese children were anxious, upset or angry as a result of being weighed.
"We recommend extending this research into a pragmatic study, focused on improving consultation skills of GPs, in order to reduce baseline levels of upset among overweight and obese children being weighed."
Don't miss our childhood obesity special issue next Monday, February 10