‘Obese’ label carries no weight

Lacie-May Gilbert (4) who has been branded obese by health visitors, pictured with mum Natasha Gray. www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/buyaphoto
Lacie-May Gilbert (4) who has been branded obese by health visitors, pictured with mum Natasha Gray. www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/buyaphoto
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A MUM of four has branded as ‘ridiculous’ a letter from local health visitors which labelled her daughter ‘very overweight’.

Natasha Gray was furious to receive the letter after the School Nursing Team carried out a routine height and weight measurement check on her four-year-old daughter Lacie-May Gilbert during a visit to Marshland St James Primary School.

The letter explains Lacie-May’s measurements put her in the ‘very overweight’ category and warns that being very overweight as a child has serious implications on a person’s long-term health.

But Natasha is adamant there is nothing wrong with Lacie-May’s weight and that at 3ft 6ins tall and weighing 3st 7lbs she is a normal four-year-old (she will be five in June).

“It is absolutely ridiculous. She is one of the smallest in her reception class and there is no way she is overweight, let alone very overweight.

“The letter is very over-the-top and if I hadn’t already got three children could have really worried me. In fact I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep. It suggested I contact my local GP practice for advice, and when I rang them they basically laughed and said there was nothing the matter with Lacie-May,” said Natasha.

The letter offers the opportunity for Natasha to enrol on the MEND programme (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It) to learn how to make her family eat more healthily and be more active.

But Natasha is happy that Lacie-May and her other three children: Brandon (16), Charlotte (11) and Kelsey (9), already eat a healthy diet and are very active.

“She is not a big eater, she doesn’t just sit and eat crisps all day. She has three meals and an occasional snack. The school knows its children and their families, surely it would be better for them to say something if they think there is an issue like being overweight than to have strangers making judgements based on a set of guidelines.

“I contacted Christine Barnett, whose signature was on the letter, to tell her how ridiculous and upsetting the letter was and her response was to offer to send someone out to speak to me about a healthier lifestyle,” said Natasha.

And she is not the only mother to have received a letter about their child’s weight.

One of Lacie-May’s classmates was also sent a letter labelling her as ‘overweight’.

She is an only child and her mother, who didn’t want to be named, said the letter had worried her when she first received it but having spoken to Natasha she had dismissed it as ‘nonsense’.

“My child is one of the smallest in the class, there is nothing wrong with her. She is just a normal five-year-old and so I will be ignoring the letter,” she said.

Anna Morgan, NCH&C’s Director of Operations, commented: “The Child Measurement Programme letters, which are based on a nationally developed template, give parents an indication of their child’s height, weight and BMI measurements.

“This is to help ensure parents are aware of whether their child’s BMI is within the ‘healthy’ range or not. By providing parents with this information, which gives an accurate snap-shot in time, we aim to help parents to make informed decisions about their family’s lifestyle.

“We’re not suggesting that children don’t change size and shape as they grow, but these measurements can help parents to understand whether their child is likely to be a healthy weight for their height, age and gender.

“A key part of the letters is the information which signposts parents to local services, which offer opportunities and advice about choosing healthier lifestyles.

“Not all families will feel they need this, but it is important that families are able to access this advice, should they want to.”