It takes some effort to protest – who is going to listen.
But as Sir Billy says, (and I endlessly repeat) cynicism is the enemy of progress, not those who oppose us.
So I took time to reply to the letters I’d received, fully expecting not to hear another word, perhaps being filed in the ‘trolls’ drawers at best, bins at worst. But lo and behold, another crop of responses appeared.
Having pointed out to Vince Cable that he’d misunderstood my letter, he took up my case. He replied saying “Thank you for your further email. I now understand rather better why you are concerned. I agree that it is absurd, and perhaps worse, for the NHS to be guiding perfectly normal children towards dieting and for misleading letters to be sent out causing alarm amongst parents. I will write to the RTCH along these lines.”
And he did, he wrote to Frank Sims, CEO of Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust. He emailed him, copying me. And using the phrase “It may be this is a diktat from the DoH. Perhaps you could let me know and I will take this up with a Minister.”
Diktat. Wonderful word. Meaning “an order or decree imposed by someone in power without popular consent.”
I wrote to my MP Vince Cable, the headmaster, Public Health Richmond and Public Health England.
The headmaster raised the issue with the Director of Public Health for Richmond and at the local Headmasters Forum.
Vince Cable wrote back to me. It came across as though he had not read my letter properly. Either that or it was waffle to fill a reply in the hopes I’d go away, since my issue wasn’t on his political agenda. Continue reading
… and I’m very pleased to say that he replied. He expressed his concern about the letter I’d received. There will be a note in the school newsletter next week to parents on the topic and he is going to raise it with the Local Authorities at the next Headteachers Forum.
The letter I wrote to him is below, a tiny bit anonymised. I’ve forwarded this on to my MP Vince Cable and the contact in the Obesity Team at Public Health England that Civic Centre lady gave me. I wonder if I’ll hear back from them? Continue reading
Finding some answers
As soon as I was able, I called the number on the letter which signed off ‘from the School Nursing Service’.
I was put through to a school nurse, albeit not the one attached to my child’s school and I asked her why I had been sent a letter informing me that my child is ‘obese’. And I asked where I could get some advice for what exactly to do about it since the links in the letter gave me nothing specific at all about managing the weight of an obese four year old.
She explained to me that although the letter was signed off from the School Nursing Service, they had not sent it. It came from the Richmond Public Health. The nurses had taken part in the National Child Measurement Programme – their role had been to weigh and measure the children and submit the data.
This was the first year that the government had decided to send automated letters to the parents.
But she could not give me any advice as she had no information to give me – she couldn’t tell me what weight he should be, what portion size I should serve or anything. She didn’t know how the Government had arrived at the conclusion about my child – how they calculated BMI.
I was baffled! The number I was given in the letter for ‘free local support’ could not offer me any. Continue reading
I’ve learned a lot, since last week, about the National Child Measurement Programme and childhood weight issues.
“We’ve had a letter back from school about our son,” said Tony, after the children had gone to bed and I had a cup of tea in my hand. He picked his moment as best he could. “It says that he is overweight.”
I reacted as he knew I would. I was very upset. We’re not perfect parents. They have snacks. But I don’t think we’re notably bad with the things we let them eat. I’m keen on healthy eating. And we actively encourage physical activity, getting out on our bikes at the weekend. The kids both go to physical activity clubs.
I looked at the letter. It didn’t just say my child was overweight. It said my four year old boy was “very overweight for their age, sex and height”. It was like a smack in the face.
It went on to say “Being very overweight can lead to health problems for your child, such as high blood pressure, early signs of type 2 diabetes and low self-confidence. But you and your child can make simple changes to be more active and eat more healthily. As a first step please call us on xxxx”. Continue reading