Aussie Kids Could Be Weighed At School To Tackle Obesity

About one in four Australian children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Children across Australia could have their height and weight recorded at school in an effort to curb childhood obesity.

It's part of a plan proposed by the Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE) to tackle obesity in Australia, which has one of the highest obese or overweight populations in the world.

Australia has the fifth highest percentage of the population being obese. Source: OECD.

Under the plan, primary school aged kids would have their height and weight measured at school in at least Years 1 and 6 unless parents opt out.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Saturday that he would be referring the proposal to the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC) to consider and provide advice.

"The importance of exercise and good eating for kids cannot be underestimated in giving them a lifelong platform to good health," he told ten daily in a statement.

"We support all Australians being healthy, exercising regularly and having a balanced diet.

"The primary responsibility for children’s health rests with parents and the States who run the schools, but the Minister will refer the proposal to the joint State and Commonwealth body, AHMAC, to consider and provide advice.

 "Being healthy as a child sets you up for life and we encourage children and parents to work together on adopting healthy lifestyles.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt stressed that a balanced diet was important for tackling obesity. Photo: Getty.

About one in four children (about 1.2 million) aged two to 17 are overweight or obese, according to data from 2014-15, with about one in three being obese.

Boys were more likely to be overweight (20%) but not obese (7%), while about 16 percent of girls were overweight and 9 percent were obese.

Curtin University Professor Martin Hagger told ten daily that the information could provide valuable data to the people charged with making policy around obesity, but that the act of measuring the data is not enough.

"That can be very useful, but it is in itself not going to stop or prevent obesity," he said.

"Just telling the child, the parents, people at school that someone is on the heavy side, or is in the overweight or obese categories in itself is not going to prevent and is not going to help that individual person to change their behaviour."

He recommended providing the people around the children -- whether they be the school, parents, or the child themselves -- with precise information about potential health consequences and what to do about it.

"If you don't get these people on board, then you're not going to see the changes that are necessary to stem the tide of juvenile obesity."

He also stressed that the need for data collection to be handled with care.

"These are sensitive issues. Certainly there are issues around body shape and body image. There is stigma, there are stereotypes associated with [being overweight], and children can be very sensitive to these things," he said.

"It can lead to stigmatisation, kids being ostracised, it can lead to bullying. This information needs to be handled with sensitivity, and the information provided only to the people who need to know."

However, healthy lifestyle lobby group Health at Every Size Australia warned that this method of data collection could backfire and lead to worse eating habit for obese people, and that current models of analysing the population are adequate.

“Doing it to everyone is very heavy handed, unnecessary and will cause more entrenchment of stigmatisation of high body weights in the population,” spokesperson Fiona Willer told the Daily Telegraph.