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Children's and parenting health centre

Child health 1-5 - The National Child Measurement Programme

NHS ChoicesFeature

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As part of the National Child Measurement Programme children are weighed and measured at school. The information is used by the NHS to plan and provide better health services for children. Some local NHS providers will send the results to the parents of the children measured.

What will happen?

If you have a child in Reception Year (ages four and five) or Year 6 (ages 10 and 11) you will receive a letter with more information from your local NHS provider before your child is measured. On the day, trained staff from your local NHS will weigh and measure your child in their clothes at school. Care is taken to ensure that the measurements are done sensitively and in private, and your child's results will not be shared with teachers or other children.

Why is it important that my child takes part?

Your child does not have to take part, but every child measured is contributing to the national picture about how children are growing. The more children who participate, the clearer that picture will be. The information collected helps your local NHS provider to plan and provide better health services for the children in your area. You can also benefit, as you can receive your child's individual results. This will help you to know if your child is in the healthy weight range. If your child is overweight, further support is available from your local NHS.

How do I find out my child's results?

In some areas parents will automatically be sent their child's results in the post. In other areas parents will need to contact their local NHS provider to find out their child's measurements. The letter that you receive from your local NHS provider before the measurements take place will explain how you will be informed about your child's results. If you already know your child's height and weight and want to know if they're a healthy weight for their age, height and sex, you can check using our healthy weight calculator. The calculator can be used for your whole family. If you're concerned that your child might be underweight or overweight, speak to your GP, school nurse or health visitor. They will be able to offer you advice and support.

Why do we need to take the measurements?

The BMI (body mass index) centile, used by healthcare professionals, is a good way of finding out whether a child is a healthy weight. By comparing your child's weight with their height, age and sex, we can tell whether they are growing as expected. This is something you may have done when your child was a baby, using the growth charts in the Personal Child Health Record (red book). Once your child's BMI centile has been calculated, they will be in one of four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight or very overweight. In a healthy population, most children should be in the healthy weight range, with fewer than one in 10 in the overweight or very overweight range. Today, one in three children aged between two and 10 years is overweight. Because the number children being overweight has gradually increased in our population, we have slowly become used to it, and it can be difficult to tell if your child is overweight as they may look similar to other children of their age. That's why we use the measurement of weight against height to get an accurate measure. Research shows that if your child is overweight now, they are more likely to grow up to be overweight as an adult. This can lead to health problems in later life, so this measurement is an important way of checking how your child is growing.

Should I share these results with my child?

The results are sent to you the parent or carer, so the decision about whether to talk to your child about the result is entirely yours. Some parents or carers like to discuss the result with their child and then decide together whether to make any changes to the family's diet or activity levels, while others decide to make discreet changes without telling them. There is no right or wrong answer and your approach will depend on your family and your child.

You might find some useful advice on this at the Weight concern website

Where can I get help?

If receiving results about your child's weight takes you by surprise or causes you concern, speak to your GP or school nurse for advice and support. Your primary care trust (PCT) should have also included a contact number with the results letter for you to call if you want further information or advice from your local NHS.

Many parents have found the tips on the Change4Life website useful in helping them make small lifestyle changes to keep their child in the healthy weight range. You can also discover what clubs, activities and fun events are happening in your local area. You can also call Change4Life on 0300 123 4567 (local call rates apply).

Some parents also find it helpful to re-check their child's BMI after a few months, to see if they have moved into the healthy range as they grow. You can do this using the NHS Choices Healthy weight tool.

Medical Review: August 31, 2010

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