Parents,who let their child grow obese,should be forced to sign “responsibility contracts” to manage their kid’s health,suggested experts.
A Sydney-based obesity expert has asked doctors to report about parents,who let their child grow obese,to child protecting authorities saying it was amounting to child abuse.
Victorian Community Services Minister Lisa Neville on Sunday said a doctor would have to hold a firm view that the child was at risk,according to ‘The Age’ report on Monday.
Shirley Alexander of a Sydney-based hospital argued in a Medical Journal of Australian that if a child was severely obese,parents could be forced to sign “responsibility contracts” to manage their health. In extreme cases they should even be reported to the courts,she said.
“Passive acquiescence by a doctor in the neglect of a severely obese child could constitute a breach of a doctor’s duty of care,” the MJA article by Alexander and three other colleagues said.
That neglect could include “failure by the child’s parents to ensure a minimally adequate diet and exercise”. The article also pointed out at an example of four year-old Jade,a fictional case study compiled after observing several real cases.
Jade was 110 centimetres tall and weighed 40 kilograms,with related complications such as high blood pressure,a fatty liver and sleep apnoea. She watched television for up to six hours a day and had temper tantrums when she did not get whatever food she desired.
Her father allowed her to snack on junk food and did not enforce diet or exercise. Almost two years after first being referred to doctors,the hospital notified the state’s child protection authorities,which imposed a hospital stay and compulsory supervision when she visited her father.
“In a sufficiently extreme case,notification to child protection services may be an appropriate professional response,” the article said,adding “Obesity has a significant adverse effect on a child’s well being,(with) both immediate and long-term medical and psycho-social health problems.”
However,a spokeswoman for community services minister Lisa Neville said the government had neutral stand towards the idea.
“If a doctor believes a child is at risk they are obliged to make a report to child protection in any circumstances,” Neville said.
“Obesity alone would not be a sole reason for child protection officer to be involved. We would look at a whole range of factors before something such as that would be considered as abuse,” Department of Human Services spokesmen Bram Alexander said.
He said doctors and other professionals had a duty to report suspected abuse “in the more traditional forms” but not obesity on its own.
The study authors said not all obese children were neglected by their parents. They also warned that taking care of the child out of the hands of their parents might leave them alienated.
“There are few harms to the child that are worth that cost”,the article said.
Previous studies have shown that many parents are in denial about their obese children. A study of more than 2100 Victorian children and their families found that 49 per cent of parents with overweight children thought their child was of average,healthy weight.