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NCMP: Your Questions Answered

  • Date published:

  • Author: oliverkyle

Discover the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) with Senior Public Health Dietitian, Paula McKee.

What is the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)?

Why is body mass index (BMI) used to assess weight in children?

I’ve been told my child is overweight, but I disagree with you. What should I do?

I have weighed and measured my child at home and don’t agree with the results I received from you. What should I do?

My child is very tall for their age, and I’ve been told they are overweight. Aren’t they just ‘in proportion’ rather than being overweight?

My child does regular exercise and eats a healthy diet, but I have been told they are overweight. Is there anything more I can do?

I have been told my child is underweight. What should I do?

I don’t know what the healthy weight range is for my child. Where can I find this out?

Doesn’t telling parents that their child is overweight or very overweight make them feel judged, undermined and criticised?

Does this weighing and measuring process not increase the risk of causing eating disorders in children?

Should I talk to my child about their result?

 

What is the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)?

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in Reception class (aged 4 to 5) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11), to assess overweight and obesity levels in children within primary schools.

Why is body mass index (BMI) used to assess weight in children?

BMI is an indirect measure of body fat. It has been compared with more direct measures of body fat, such as MRI scanning, and has been found to be the most accurate and accessible method currently available for assessing weight in children.

There are always limitations to the accuracy of medical tests, and these need to be taken into account when interpreting results. Both national and international bodies such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend the use of BMI centiles as a tool to assess weight in children.

If you would like help interpreting your child’s result, you can ask your health professional.

I’ve been told my child is overweight, but I disagree with you. What should I do?

There are some limitations to using BMI centiles to assess weight in children, however, in the majority of situations, the result is accurate. If the BMI centile suggests your child is overweight and you disagree with this assessment, then it is probably best to consult your school nurse or GP. They can review the measurements, put these in the context of other aspects of your child’s health and wellbeing and advise you accordingly.

I have weighed and measured my child at home and don’t agree with the results I received from you. What should I do?

There are a number of reasons that there may be a difference in measurements; your child may have grown in the time period between measurement and you receiving the letter, and weight can also fluctuate.

A difference in clothing and equipment will also give a difference in measurements. If there is more than 2kg difference in weight measurements, or you are concerned, please contact the NCMP team using the number on your letter.

My child is very tall for their age, and I’ve been told they are overweight. Aren’t they just ‘in proportion’ rather than being overweight?

Children can be tall and overweight, even if they are in proportion. Using BMI centiles takes both height and weight into account and is still an accurate indicator of when a child is overweight, even in tall children.

My child does regular exercise and eats a healthy diet, but I have been told they are overweight. Is there anything more I can do?

It’s positive that your child is undertaking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. The recommendations are that children do 60 minutes of physical activity each day. It would also be beneficial to review the portion sizes given to your child. More information can be found on the Change4Life website.

If you are concerned and would like to discuss with a member of the Healthy Together team, your school nurse details can be found by searching your child’s school here.

I have been told my child is underweight. What should I do?

As outlined in the results letter, if you are concerned about your child being underweight, please contact your GP initially to rule out any medical reasons for this and for further advice.

I don’t know what the healthy weight range is for my child. Where can I find this out?

We don’t provide a healthy weight range in the results letter as this would become incorrect as soon as your child grows taller. The best way to find out what a healthy weight would be for your child is to enter their current measurements into the NHS BMI calculator then adjust the weight until the result falls in the healthy weight category.

You could continue to use this method as your child grows taller, as what is a healthy weight will change as they grow.

Doesn’t telling parents that their child is overweight or very overweight make them feel judged, undermined and criticised?

Being told your child is overweight can be an upsetting experience, but it certainly does not imply your parenting is at fault.

Our modern lifestyles can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, but there are still some simple steps we can take to stay healthy. We feel it is important to share your child’s result with you so you can take action if necessary and so that you can be provided with help and support where this is needed.

Does this weighing and measuring process not increase the risk of causing eating disorders in children?

The NCMP has been carefully monitored since it began, and there is no evidence as yet that there has been an increase in eating disorders in young people as a result.

We understand weight can be a emotive issue, and every effort is made to carry out the process sensitively.

We listen to feedback from parents and schools and use this to continually improve the way the programme is delivered. The risk of causing sensitivity about weight has to be balanced against the risk to our children of the current rates of unhealthy weight. The NCMP is one way we can start to tackle unhealthy weight in our children.

Should I talk to my child about their result?

This is a personal decision. We don’t think you should automatically share your child’s result with them, which is why the result comes directly to you at your home address rather than via your child.

Older children, who may be more involved in any lifestyle changes you may be considering, may already know there is an issue, and might feel relieved to have an honest and positive discussion with you about it. Or you may feel your child is already very sensitive about their weight and sharing this result could be more negative than positive.

Younger children may be less able to understand and it might be simpler to make lifestyle changes without a direct discussion with them.