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Fit, active and clearly not FAT: So why was boy, 11, sent devastating letter by NHS telling him to lose weight?



By Paul Sims

Last updated at 11:12 AM on 3rd July 2010



He enjoys an active lifestyle and eats plenty of fruit and vegetables. Tom Halton also appears to have little fat on him.

Yet the 11-year-old has been branded 'overweight' by NHS officials.

They wrote to his parents and warned them that at 7st 10lb, Tom was outside the 'healthy range' for children of his age.


article-0-0A4C5994000005DC-541_468x731.jpg Picture of health: Thomas Halton, 11, stands 5ft 1in tall and weighs 7st 10lb but has been told to lose weight by NHS officials. His mother Tracey said: 'He felt like he had been kicked in the stomach'


They said that if he doesn't change his lifestyle he was at higher risk of cancer, type-two diabetes and heart disease.

The recommended weight for Tom's age is between 5st 5lb and 7st 7lb. But at 5ft 1in he is taller than average for an 11-year-old and is clearly not fat.

The letter has so upset Tom, who lives in Barnsley, he has started refusing to eat.

Last night his mother Tracey, 42, a paediatric nurse, accused the NHS of damaging his self-esteem.

She said: 'Tom asked, "What's wrong with me?". He said he felt like he had been kicked in the stomach.

'He wouldn't eat his tea and was worried about it when he went to bed. There isn't an inch of fat on him.'

The letter from NHS Barnsley was sent out after Tom was weighed and measured at school for a national health programme.

It read: 'If we carry on as we are, nine out of ten children today could grow up with dangerous amounts of fat in their bodies.

'This can cause diseases like cancer , type-two diabetes and heart disease.'



Enlarge article-1291545-0A4CBBAA000005DC-73_468x614.jpg 'Laughable': The letter to Tom's parents after he was measured at school


Doctors classify patients' weight using a body mass index that is based on a mathematical formula relating height to weight.

In children younger than 16, they use special charts that also take age into account.

The Government's National Child Measurement Programme is part of a wide-ranging campaign to combat child obesity.

But Tom's father, Dan Halton, 46, a school governor and youth tutor, calls the letters 'unhelpful and laughable' and has demanded they should stop.

'He is always riding on his bike and he has his own trials motor bike,' he said. 'That is a sport in itself and you have to be fit and strong to handle those motor bikes.'


Tom also enjoys playing football with his friends, Mr Halton said.

He added: 'The impression it gives is that your child is fat, it's your fault and they will die from a horrible disease. You can't use tinpot psychology like this on kids or their parents.'

Emma Healey, from the eating disorder charity BEAT, said: 'We should be promoting messages about healthy diet and healthy body size but we must do this sensitively and responsibly.

'A "one size fits all" approach just isn't appropriate.'

Sharon Stoltz, assistant director for public health in Barnsley, said the local NHS were following a Government initiative.

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