According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity is one of the 21 century’s most serious global public health challenges and the health problems associated with it cost the NHS more than £5 billion every year.
Although data from the latest National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) shows that childhood obesity rates are stablising, with possible downward trends in some age groups, there is a major link between obesity levels and deprivation. Children living in the 10% poorest areas in the country are twice as likely to be obese, compared to those residing in the 10% richest ones.
In a bid to promote a healthy weight among children, monitor data and obesity trends and help health professionals deliver it, Public Health England has produced the National child measurement programme operational guidance.
The NCMP measures the weight and height of more than a million reception and Year 6 children at state-maintained schools in England. The purpose for this is to understand obesity prevalance, as well as provide parents with feedback on their child’s weight status so they can be supported to make health changes if necessary.
The key delivery elements include securing staff to deliver and raise awareness of the programme, including sending the Why your child’s weight matters leaflet to parents. There are also key dates for local authorities to deliver the NCMP measurements; the planning required before children are measured, the data and information that needs to be collected; and which schools and children should be included.
To deliver the programme properly, a registered health professional must manage the arrangements, such as training staff, engaging with schools and making sure the data is submitted on time.
The guidance includes a wide range of educational guides on obesity which professionals working with children can access. These include audio podcasts on how to raise the issue of weight sensitively, learning modules, including An introduction to obesity; Identifying unhealthy weight and risk factors; Weight gain, and Managing obesity, which are available on the Obesity Learning Centre website. There is also a directory of obesity training providers running courses.
Other vital information includes equipment needed to measure a child; doing the measurements; how to measure height and weight; which schools should be included in the programme, which children should be measured; and collecting data. There is also a checklist to ensure all the critical planning tasks are completed before professionals start to deliver the programme and what to do after the measurements are recorded. This includes sending out results letters and the follow-up programme. Another essential checklist can ensure all the critical tasks have been completed before result letters are sent out and proactive feedback is delivered.
To download the guidance, training resources, factsheets and healthy weight tools, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/308248/NCMP_updated_operational_guidance_02052014__3_.pdf