The government has urged PCTs automatically to send parents results of their children's height and weight measurements from September this year.
The National Child Measurement Programme weighs and measures the height of all primary school children aged 4–5 and 10–11. Now the Department of Health (DH) wants parents to receive the results without asking for them in a bid to help their children achieve a healthy weight.
According to the DH, about 40% of local primary healthcare trusts have said they intend to contact parents automatically in the next school year, and a further 40% are to decide in light of the new guidance issued yesterday (4 August 2008).
The DH guidance is designed to help PCTs implement this new approach and includes example letters for parents.
Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: "It's clear from research we've done that parents want to know their child's results and whether there is a concern about their health. But they want clear information, which is helpful and nonstigmatising.
"Research shows that most parents of overweight or obese children think that their child is a healthy weight. This important move isn't about pointing the finger and telling parents that their children are overweight, instead it's about equipping parents with the information they need to help their children live healthier lives."
Children's Minister Kevin Brennan said: "Schools are well placed to make a real difference in tackling obesity. But at the end of the day, parents bring up children, not the government, schools or health services. Every parent wants their child to be fit and healthy so it's only right to help them make informed decisions about their lives."
Figures published earlier this year showed that in 2006/07, 22.9% of children age 4–5 were overweight or obese. Of those aged 10–11, 31.6% were overweight.