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Council plan to ban the word 'obese'... Fat Chance!

by Simon Boyle. Published Mon 12 Apr 2010 11:50

The word "obese" could be banned by town hall officials because it offends fat children.

Liverpool has one of the worst childhood obesity problem in Britain but it is planning to describe fat children as having an "unhealthy weight" level.

Council officials say that the suggesting for outlawing the word came from children themselves who are members of a "Schools' Parliament" made-up of 9-11 year-olds

National statistics show that Liverpool is an obesity blackspot with half of 11-year old boys and 40 percent of 11-year old girls in Liverpool are overweight with 1-in-20 is classed as "clinically obese"

But Liverpool City Council say that the word obese has "too many negative connotations" and actually puts-off overweight youngsters from adopting healthy eating and exercise.

The proposal is to be considered by the council which has confirmed it could be adopted as part of it official strategy to improve the lives of children in the city.

The plan is to replace the word obesity with the phrase "unhealthy weight" in future health promotion literature aimed at children.

But heath campaigners warned that censorship of the word would would obscure a serious issue.

The Liverpool Schools' Parliament is said to have put forward the idea of banning the word "obese" when it was asked to produce ideas for a Children and Young People’s Plan.

Co-ordinator of the schools’ parliament Jeff Dunn said: "The idea is that obesity has a negative connotation behind it.

"They felt unhealthy weight is more positive and a better way to promote it. The term 'obese' would turn people off, particularly young people."

But Sion Porter of the British Dietetic Association, said that "obese" is simply a medical term, with a defined clinical meaning.

She said: "To a dietician or health professional, obese is a clear label for an individual with a 'Body Mass Index' (BMI) in excess of 30.

"BMI remains the best indicator of a person's weight level, and includes the terms 'overweight' and 'obese'.

"Clearly an individual who reaches the 'obese' category is risking serious health problems, and needs to understand the severity of their weight-problem.

"Using the word 'obese' makes this quite clear, and though we would never aim to cause offence, it is a clinicians duty to inform patients as clearly and thoroughly as possible."

Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundation charity, agreed, saying there is a real difference clinically between someone classed as "overweight" and those identified as "obese".

She said: "If you are obese, you are obese.

"I can see where the children are coming from and the word carries a stigmatisation but unfortunately sometimes schoolchildren have to be taught the realities of life.

"If you have a problem, particularly when it's as serious as this, it needs addressing and not covering-up.

"If you start using the phrase ‘unhealthy weight’ you are just fudging the problem."

Liverpool's Children and Young People’s Plan is due to be approved next month with a child-friendly version distributed in June.

A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: "All the young people's recommendations will be considered by the council with a view to include them in the delivery of the Children and Young People’s Plan."


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"Stigmatisation is what's wanted. Being fat is bad for kids and they need to do something about it. Call them fat and have done with it. " Nesta, Cambridge around 5 years, 3 months ago

"Obesity in most instances is the result of greed often lernt from fat ,role model,parents.Often to be seen taking disabled parking spots. " riled thing, flamborough around 5 years, 3 months ago

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