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Is child obesity 'neglect'?

14th June 2007

Doctors have suggested that extremely obese children should be seen or monitored by social services.

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The BBC consulted nearly 50 paediatricians from around the UK to find out if they saw obesity in children as a "child protection issue."

In June the British Medical Association will debate the motion: "The government should consider childhood obesity in under-12s as neglect by the parents and encourage legal protection for the child and action against those parents."

Dr Matt Capehorn is the Rotherham GP who proposed the motion. He runs an obesity clinic and told the BBC he had noticed a difference in how health, legal and social services react to obese children in comparison to malnourished children.

Dr Tabitha Randell, a consultant paediatrician from Nottingham, supports the idea. She has seen increasing numbers of children who have weight problems. In one case, a child of two and a half weighed over four stone (25.4kg).

According to Dr Randall, the child's parents "said she was big-boned and they were too. I think the perception of parents is a very real problem."

Other health professionals do not agree. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "Obesity is a public health problem, not a child protection issue.

"There may be a few families that give cause for concern where there are other matters of neglect or emotional harm and this is where a paediatrician might have discussions with social services."








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