Obesity experts forbidden from weighing overweight kids

QUEENSLAND risks becoming a laughing stock in academic circles as researchers warn there is little hope of overcoming a looming childhood obesity crisis if we are too scared to weigh our children.

Key figures in two of the state's most presitigious institutions - Griffith University and the University of Queensland - have both told of struggling to overcome bureaucratic hurdles put in place by the Department of Education as they sought to learn more about our kids.

APN has viewed email correspondence from the department in 2011 telling researchers: "I notice you intend to take body mass index measures of the students. The Department does not allow this in the school environment".

On Wednesday, Department acting director-general Nick Seeley said there was no such policy although "we must consider the impact on students of any studies that focus on body image".

Earlier this week a regional university criticised the government for hampering obesity research in public schools.

Queensland Health in its most recent Chief Health Officers report described the growing childhood obesity epidemic as "one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century".

Griffith Institute of Health associate professor Belinda Beck said in one case, students were to perform a dancing exercise program for 10 minutes a day, three days a week all year.

Despite enthusiasm from the school's principal and teachers, permission from the Department was denied, forcing the experiment to be done with independent schools.

Associate Prof Beck said Queensland was at risk of being "left in the dark ages".

"All we wanted to do was measure height and weight and other indices of body composition to tell whether this exercise was good for muscles, bones and good for fat," she said.

"There was never any way we were going to put children in a situation where they would be passing around the figures.

Assoc Prof Beck said she suspected the government was "covering their butts" from parent complaints.

UQ sociology professor Jake Najman said hurdles to undertaking this research weakened government policy because the data was weak.

"We cannot collect intelligence on what's happening with young people because this access is not available," he said.



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