Students' feelings first in battle of the bulge in Qld

FEELINGS come first when it comes to conducting childhood obesity research in Queensland public schools, with Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek defending government policies which experts claim is leaving the state "in the dark ages".

The Department of Education has been criticised by major Queensland universities, including University of Queensland, Griffith University, for hampering efforts to learn more about child health issues.

Queensland Health chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young in November estimated 27% of children were obese or overweight, amounting to about 200,000 children aged 5-17 "who face a lifetime of health problems as a result of being overweight or obese at a young age".

Researchers must receive approval first from their own universities, then from the Department of Education, school principals and finally from parents before measuring a student.

In some cases, academics have the support of the school but the Department of Education have still rejected the proposals.

The actual measurements would be taken privately and not released either to children or publicly.

Mr Langbroek said the department's priority was the well being of students.

"That's why sensitive research applications, like taking BMI (body mass index) measurements of children, are considered by the departmental experts," he said.

The formal state research guidelines include keeping children from "physical, psychological and other forms of harm" and maintaining privacy.

Griffith University researcher Associate Professor Belinda Beck said a request to measure students as part of an exercise program was rejected despite support from the school's principal, teachers and kids.

Assoc Prof Beck said the hard-line views of the department were "completely irresponsible".

"We can't move ahead in our quest to find ways to stem this avalanche of obesity if we're not able to do very large-scale intervention and test various ideas that might help the problem in the public school system," she said.

Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said there needed to be a balance between protecting students and conducting research.



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