“You”re bordering on obese”: What active 7-year-old girl was told by NHS weigh scheme
Healthy: Libby Boardman, 7, and her mother, Louise, 34, at their home in the Farnworth area of Bolton
She is a budding gymnast and table tennis player who often comes home with bruises on her knees after rough-and-tumble games with her friends.
So Libbie Boardman’s parents were shocked to be told that their active, healthy seven-year-old had been classified as ‘borderline obese’.
She and her classmates had their height and weight measured by NHS staff to calculate their body mass index as part of a scheme aimed at cracking down on childhood obesity.
But several parents have reacted with outrage at the results, saying they are clearly misleading – and could result in their children developing eating disorders.
Libbie’s father, Paul Boardman, said: ‘I do not know how they can be saying that she is overweight.
‘You just have to look at her to think, “Where the heck have they got that from”’
For adults, BMI is measured by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.
The calculation for children begins the same way, but the result is then compared with those of others of the same age and sex to calculate the child’s ‘centile’ – or position relative to others on a scale of one to 100.
Libbie, who is 4ft 2in tall and weighs 5st 5lb, was described as being at the top end of the overweight category by NHS Bolton, bordering on clinically obese.
She has a BMI ‘centile’ of 97 – meaning she is in the top 3 per cent. Between 91 and 97 is classed as overweight, and 98 and above is clinically obese.
Her parents were sent the results in a letter, along with a booklet of healthy eating tips.
Pilot scheme: There have been at least four complaints from parents of children at Highfield Primary School in Bolton after they received notification of their child”s weight status
They took her to her GP, who said the numbers were right but that there was nothing to worry about as Libbie was perfectly healthy.
Mr Boardman, 43, said: ‘She has been saying things like she does not want any tea.
‘But I said “Don’t be silly”. She doesn’t have junk food, just the odd treat now and again. She is active and is what I would describe as a rough-and-tumble type.’
Critics have pointed out that crude interpretation of BMI figures ignores differences in build.
Mr Boardman, a window cleaner who also has a 13-year-old daughter, Sophie, with his office manager wife Louise, said the scheme should be scrapped.
‘If they are going to do it, they need to tailor it to the individual,’ said Mr Boardman, of Farnworth, Greater Manchester.
There are understood to have been at least four complaints about the scheme from parents of children at Highfield Primary School in Farnworth, which Libbie attends.
The initiative was launched in a bid to tackle the high obesity rate in parts of Bolton, where one in three youngsters are overweight when they reach the age of 11.
NHS Bolton said BMI had been found to be the most appropriate way to judge a child’s weight and took into account their age and sex.
But a spokesman admitted: ‘A few children might show up as underweight or overweight when they are actually perfectly healthy.’