A national strategy is needed to improve the monitoring of child growth and detect the early signs of obesity, child health specialists urged today at the launch of Open Book on Growth, a new educational initiative on charting child growth and development.
Children are routinely weighed and measured during the first year of life and then again when they go to school. This leaves a two to three year window when measurements may be conducted haphazardly or not at all. Experts therefore call for a clearer understanding and more coherent strategy for monitoring the growth of toddlers between the ages of one and three. This could help the government to achieve its stated ambition to reduce childhood obesity and thereby become "the first major country to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population."
A recent survey of health visitors, school and community nurses who carry out growth measurements revealed one in five had had no formal training on taking child growth measurements and 48% did not feel confident in calculating and assessing children's BMI. Over 90% of those surveyed felt there should be a national standard governing child measurement procedures.
"Regular measurements of child growth are absolutely essential, not only for the individual child but also for our overall understanding of obesity and overweight," said Dr Pauline Emmett, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol.
Atul Singhal, deputy director at the MRC Childhood Nutrition Research Centre at the Institute of Child Health in London, added: "If we are serious about halting the obesity epidemic then we must identify those at risk as early as possible and that means taking regular and accurate measurements of height, weight and BMI, right the way through childhood."
Open Book on Growth is an online interactive training aid designed to support the current government and WHO strategy of monitoring early growth, produced by the Infant & Toddler Forum. It is available free to all health and childcare professionals at www.infantandtoddlerforum.org
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