Child Obesity Stigma

The National Child Measurement Programme

The ‘National Child Measurement Programme’ (NCMP) is an annual process by which children are weighed and information on their Body Mass Index is fed back to their parents in a letter.  The feedback classifies children as being ‘underweight’, ‘healthy weight’, ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.  It is conducted in the Reception Year and Year 6.


Problems with the NCMP

Evidence suggests that the NCMP has failed to achieve any positive effects. The prevalence of childhood obesity nationally has increased in the last year and is actually higher among Year 6 children than when the programme began a decade ago.

Research into why the NCMP has been ineffective in reducing obesity has focused on the letters sent home to parents. These studies reveal that the NCMP letters do not tend to inspire behaviour change  and that they even have the potential to provoke adverse emotional reactions in children.

Here’s an article by Sandwell’s Dr Lisa McNally on why the NCMP may not be good for either obesity or mental health!


A Stronger Sandwell Approach

Our Stronger Sandwell approach is all about harnessing local skills and doing public health work WITH rather than TO our community.

Locally, meetings with parents, teachers and young people indicated that the NCMP letters are viewed negatively in Sandwell.  So, we set out to co-design a resource to replace the traditional feedback letters that would a) eliminate stigma and b) acknowledge the crucial role of mental wellbeing in childhood obesity.

Two co-design groups which were established:

–  a young people’s group
–  a parents group made up of adults with children at Sandwell schools

Input was also gained from school nurses and other local professionals with expertise in children’s health and well-being.  Based on the co-design work the resource was produced by graphic designers within the our team and then redrafted until all participants felt the desired result had been achieved.

The Resource

The end product of the co-design work is a colourful and easy to read one-page resource providing parents with advice on:

– Change4life ‘Top Tips’
– ‘Sugar Swap’ ideas
– Physical activities for the family
– Emotional well-being

To encourage parents to use the resource, a ‘stick me on a fridge’ magnet was also designed signposting to further web-based information on local services and activities.

Next Steps

The new resource is currently being distributed to parents with pre-measurement letters through the school nursing team.

Any parents who wish to have information on their child’s body mass index can still obtain it from the school nursing team.  However, this is now an ‘opt in’ service and information is only given if it is requested.  We will collate data on how many parents actually request this information.