Children’s health advocate and former Australian of the Year Rob de Castella has said that the recording of a child’s weight on their school report card simply doesn’t go far enough in the fight against childhood obesity.
De Castella has spoken out in relation to last week’s Canberra Times article titled “Plan for fat school reports” where University Professor David Penington calls for a child’s weight to be included on a child’s school report card to “spark discussion between teachers and parents about their child’s diet and level of physical activity”.
De Castella, who founded his SmartStart for Kids (SSFK) program in the ACT 13 years ago, believes that his approach to tackling childhood health and obesity is way ahead of the game.
SSFK has conducted physical health and fitness assessments on 53,000 ACT primary school children from 98 schools over the past 13 years, and provides parents with a detailed report on how their child has performed on a number of assessments, including body composition flexibility, strength, coordination and functional motor skills.
De Castella said that it was concerning to see extreme levels of physical incompetence in children, including poor physical fitness and gross motor skills, not just obesity.
“It’s not just about body composition. It’s about a full physical health and fitness assessment. Simply recording a child’s weight doesn’t go far enough. We need to be educating parents and children about the effects of poor health from a young age. If a child can’t throw, catch, jump and run, it is almost impossible to be active and to have a healthy weight,” he said
“We have been running this program for 13 years now, and it is a program that actually works. We have seen improvements in all aspects of a child’s health and fitness.”
De Castella said his organisation was working in partnership with the ACT Government and the University of Canberra to provide as much information and support as possible to children and families of children who had been identified as being at risk of poor health.
“Every parent involved in our program receives a detailed report outlining their child’s results, and they are delivered in a positive way so that parents can monitor their child’s results in comparison to other children of the same age and gender,” he said.
“I believe that parents have a right to see how their child is developing compared to other children of the same age and gender in the same way that they are given reports on their child’s academic development right from the start of their schooling.”
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