Childhood obesity and neglect – resources for practitioners

Obesity in childhood is a significant public health issue.

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in Reception class (aged 4-5) and Year Six (aged 10-11), to assess overweight and obesity levels in children within primary schools.

In 2018/19 almost 25% of reception children and 41% of Year 6 children in Manchester were overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity can lead to cardiac, respiratory and musculo-skeletal problems, bullying, poor friendship networks and isolation, and self-esteem. Obesity can start in early childhood and the longer it lasts the harder it becomes for children and young people to lose weight.

Given the harm that childhood obesity causes, professionals should always consider whether there are actual or likely safeguarding concerns. This requires careful assessment, consideration of the available evidence and a clear analysis.

The Children’s Community Safeguarding Team and the Healthy Weight Team at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust have created a ‘Safeguarding Analysis Tool in the Context of Obesity’ to support practitioners in undertaking this analysis.

Following a Serious Case Review into the death of a child as a result of obesity, our Neglect Strategy was altered to include ‘overweight’ in addition to ‘underweight’ as an indicator of neglect.

The Manchester Local Care Organisation formed a multi-agency Obesity Steering Group to develop robust obesity pathways to be followed by health and social care.

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