Is it time for the ‘fat letters’ to stop?

If only 20% of parents who get them find them helpful, what's the point of terrifying/offending/annoying the other 80% with the dreaded 'fat letter'?

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It’s been reported in the news recently that a child who received a “fat letter” from her school – a note advising her she was overweight – became so upset she stopped eating for two days. 

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Have you been sent a ‘fat letter’ about your child? If you did get one how would you feel? Leading health experts are calling for them to stop being sent home to parents.

For those who don’t know, children are weighed at the beginning and end of primary school and letters are sent home telling parents if their kids are overweight according to the BMI (Body Mass Index).

The programme was launched in 2005 by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) but has come up against criticism from The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). The RSPH says only half of parents understand why their kids are being weighed and few find the letters helpful.

Of course it’s not just the ‘experts’ who have weighed in (pardon the pun) on the debate. A number of parents have come out publicly to say how much they dislike the letters.

Mandy McGowan received a ‘fat letter’ about her daughter Izzie-Rae and told the Manchester Evening News:

“Upon opening my letter saying my child was overweight I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop her eating and my issues with food struck again. How can someone who doesn’t know my child label her? To me, fat kids sit on the couch eating fried food. She doesn’t even like fried food.

“I phoned the number on the letter and the lady instantly knew why I was phoning. She was lovely and very reassuring. I spoke to the school who were also disgusted with the letter.

“No follow up is given – no tips on how to help lose the fat title – no nothing. Agreed my daughter doesn’t eat veg, but she loves salad. I struggle to get her to eat a full meal and school are working closely with her at lunch as she wasn’t eating at all due to being so fussy.”

And Dad Paul Hurry told Sky News: “I felt like I was being accused of being a bad parent. I felt frustrated and a little angry.”

One grandmother told ITV News that she had seen older children getting the letters and opening them themselves, feeling embarrassed by what they read.

In defence of the scheme, a Public Health England spokesperson says it’s not a ‘fat letter’ as not just obese children get one:

“We provide local authorities with extensive guidance on how to do this sensitively and also where parents can find additional support. The letter to parents is not a ‘fat letter’, as we encourage it to be sent to all parents regardless of their child’s weight.

“It is difficult for any parent to receive information that suggests their child has excess weight, so we take great care to ensure this is done as sensitively as possible.”

What do you think?

How would you feel if you got a ‘fat letter’ about your child? Do you think they could be in any way helpful? Tell us in the comments below.

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