‘How anyone can say that my little boy is overweight is beyond me’ – Sheffield mum’s anger after shock letter

Liam Jones with mum Anna Ashworth.
Liam Jones with mum Anna Ashworth.

A Sheffield mum is ‘disgusted’ after her ‘healthy, active’ four-year-old boy was told he was overweight after a routine health check.

Liam Jones was given the check-up last year as part of the National Child Measurement Programme, an NHS survey of all children in primary school reception classes.

Liam Jones.

Liam Jones.

Just after New Year, his mum Anna Ashforth, aged 25, of Atlantic Road, Lowedges, received a letter from Sheffield Children’s Hospital telling her he needs to diet.

She said the letter came as ‘a complete shock’.

“Liam doesn’t have any overweight part on his body, he is just tall for his age,” she said.

“They wonder why so many kids suffer with eating disorders nowadays - I’ve never been so disgusted in my life.

Liam Jones.

Liam Jones.

“How anyone can say that little boy is overweight is beyond me. If I put him on a diet he would end up being too skinny.”

Anna said her son plays football ‘all the time’ for a number of different teams in the area and ‘definitely’ doesn’t have an unhealthy diet.

She is worried some parents of similar children may take the programme’s judgements seriously and put their children on unnecessary diets, potentially putting their health at risk.

“I just think they need to assess it individually instead of just looking at a chart,” added Anna.

Liam Jones.

Liam Jones.

The NHS says defining children as overweight or obese is a ‘complex process’, as children of different ages and sexes grow and develop at different rates.

This means that a different method is used for children than for adults.

An adult’s Body Mass Index is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.

For children, this is then compared to a reference sample of measurements gathered in 1990, which takes age and sex into account.

Liam Jones.

Liam Jones.

Corinne Harvey, from Public Health England in Yorkshire and The Humber, said: “The National Child Measurement Programme is invaluable for us in assessing the health of the nation’s children.

“It’s also an objective source of advice for parents on healthy weight in children.

“The evidence shows that, as being overweight becomes the norm, parents and even health professionals struggle to identify overweight children by sight alone.

“It is difficult for parents to find out that their child is an unhealthy weight.

“However, councils pass this information on sensitively and in complete confidence, and we know that the majority of parents welcome the feedback.”

Greg Fell director of public health at Sheffield Council, said: “We apologise for any upset and anxiety caused by this letter. The council commissions the National Child Measurement programme in line with national standards, and sometimes odd results come out.

“This may have been the case in Liam’s case. There isn’t a better measure than BMI  to measure a child’s weight, but it’s well known that it is an imperfect measure.”