Scottish primary schools 'should weigh pupils'

Scales Image copyright PA
Image caption Currently, Scottish primary schools only weigh pupils in P1

Scotland should follow England's lead and routinely weigh pupils while they are at primary school, a cancer charity has recommended.

Pupils are currently weighed in P1, but Cancer Research UK said the measurement programme should be expanded.

Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to the charity.

The Scottish Parliament's health committee is hearing evidence on obesity from a range of experts.

Recent figures from Cancer Research UK's statistics team found more than 10% of children in Scotland have started primary school overweight or obese between 2005-2006 and 2014-2015.

This amounted to almost 83,000 four to five-year-olds who started P1 carrying excess weight over 10 years.

Scottish children are also more likely to be overweight than in other areas of the UK.

Junk food ads

In a paper submitted to the committee ahead of Tuesday's sitting, Cancer Research UK said: "We welcome the fact that children are routinely weighed and measured at P1 in primary school.

"Monitoring BMI status of children is vital to both monitor societal trends, the impact of interventions and identify social inequalities linked to obesity.

"We believe that this measurement programme should be expanded to include the routine measurement of children in P6... as is currently done in England."

The charity also said it shared the "disappointment" expressed by Public Health Minister Shona Robison over the UK government's Childhood Obesity Strategy, which does not ban the advertising of junk food before the 21:00 watershed.

The committee is hearing evidence from the British Dietetic Association, NHS Scotland and Obesity Action Scotland among others, during Tuesday's session.

It is sitting as the publication of a Scottish government health report monitoring obesity revealed that last year almost two-thirds of adults aged 16 and over in Scotland were overweight, including 29% who were obese.

Levels of both measures increased between 1995 and 2008, but have remained relatively stable since then, the report found.

Since 1998, the proportion of children at risk of being overweight - including obesity - has fluctuated between 28% and 33%.

Last year, 28% of children were at risk of being overweight, including 15% at risk of obesity.

The Scottish government has said it encourages people to be more active, eat less and eat better and is examining a range of actions to improve diet, physical activity and education.

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