Should primary school children be routinely screened for obesity? New research suggests not
Release Date 23 April 2007
EMBARGO: 00.01H (UK time) Tuesday 24 April, 2007
Primary school children should not be routinely screened for obesity without any sound evidence of benefit, according to research led by a University of Reading professor.
In its 2004 report on obesity, the parliamentary Health Select Committee recommended that all schoolchildren be screened, the results fed back to parents, and overweight and obese children offered specialist treatment - at present, children aged between four and five and 10 and 11 are weighed at school and the anonymous information fed into the National Childhood Obesity Database as part of a monitoring programme.
But a new systematic review assessing the research evidence on the effectiveness of weight monitoring to identify and treat obese children – led by Reading's Professor of Paediatrics, Professor Gary Butler - has found no sound evidence of benefit.
Professor Butler said: "Our review found a lack of data on the potential impact of population monitoring, or screening for obesity and more research is indicated.
"Identification of effective weight reduction strategies for children and clarification of the role of preventative measures are priorities; it is difficult to see how screening to identify individual children can be justified without effective interventions."
What research they did find focused on how accurate weight monitoring was at diagnosing overweight and obesity – this research is now to be published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Professor Butler has been working with researchers from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), University of York and from the Universities of Leeds and Oxford.
The researchers say that tracking individual children might help identify the long term health impacts of childhood obesity.
Dr Marie Westwood, of the University of York, said: "Standardised population level monitoring is likely to be useful for gathering information on obesity trends, informing resource planning, and could help in assessing the impact of school based preventive initiatives to improve children's diets and lifestyles.
"However, it's difficult to see how screening to identify individual children can be justified until evidence for the long term impact of interventions to treat obesity can be demonstrated. Identification of effective weight reduction strategies for children and clarification of the role of preventative measures are priorities."
Media Relations Manager, University of Reading
1. Dr Gary Butler can be contacted direct at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on 0118 378 6863
2. Further information about the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) can be obtained from Paul Wilson Tel: 01904 321073
3. Marie Westwood, Debra Fayter, Suzanne Hartley, Amber Rithalia, Gary Butler, Paul Glasziou, Martin Bland, John Nixon, Lisa Stirk, Mary Rudolf. Childhood obesity: should primary school children be routinely screened? A systematic review and discussion of the evidence. Archives of Diseases in Childhood 2007; doi:10.1136/adc.2006.113589. The article is available to download here
4. This systematic review was conducted by researchers from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), University of York and from the Universities of Leeds, Oxford and Reading.
5. The research was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme (project number 04/09/02) and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment. For further project information visit the HTA Programme website
6. CRD is an independent research centre based at the University of York. The centre aims to provide decision makers with research-based information about the effects of interventions used in health and social care. For more information, visit the University of York website
7. If publishing online, please carry a hyperlink to the CRD website