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Thursday 20th October 2016

Childhood obesity could be neglect

16th July 2010

Child health experts have suggested that parents who fail to help an obese child to eat and exercise properly could be guilty of neglect.


Dr Russell Viner and colleagues from the UCL Institute of Child Health in London indicated that parental failure over diet and exercise could become a child protection issue.

While they say weight itself may not be a reason for child protection agencies to intervene, consistent failure by parents to change the family’s lifestyle may require them to engage with outside help.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they wrote: “Parental failure to provide their children with adequate treatment for a chronic illness (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc) is a well accepted reason for a child protection registration for neglect.

“We suggest that childhood obesity becomes a child protection concern when parents behave in a way that actively promotes treatment failure in a child who is at serious risk from obesity and when the parents or carers understand what is required, and are helped to engage with the treatment programme.”

The team suggest failings might involve not keeping appointments or engaging with healthcare staff or other professionals who want to help the child, though Dr Viner concedes it remains difficult to establish just when obesity issues became child protection issues.

Researchers also say that removing children from their parents may not help obesity either.

The finding came after the team set out to review the evidence for any link between childhood obesity and neglect because there are no official guidelines for professionals.


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