By JR on Friday, February 24, 2012
A MELBOURNE mother is horrified after a child and maternal health nurse labelled her healthy three-year-old daughter "obese".
Helen Karalexis said the incident occurred when she took Viktoria to the Sunshine Child and Maternal Health clinic for a routine check-up on Wednesday.
Ms Karalexis was concerned this was not an isolated case, and that it was sending children the wrong messages.
Her daughter is 108cm tall and weighs 21.1kg - when the nurse put these measurements into the computer, she told her Viktoria was obese. "I said, 'how can you tell me my daughter is obese? Look at her'," Ms Karalexis said. "She's very energetic, she's always outside playing, she's got a lot of muscle, which is heavier than fat."
The nurse recommended Ms Karalexis switch her daughter to low-fat milk, reduce her meal portions and not give her any cordials, soft drinks or fruit juice. "She almost convinced me my daughter was obese," Ms Karalexis said.
Nurses should not be relying solely on a computer program to determine whether a child was obese, but also use discretion and common sense, she said. "It's hard enough trying to get kids to eat as it is, but this could make them start thinking 'I can't eat this because I'm going to get fat'," she said.
Ms Karalexis urged parents suffering a similar experience to seek a second opinion.
A Brimbank City Council spokesman said discussions were being held with Isis Primary Care, which provides maternal and child health services in the area on its behalf, over Ms Karalexis's allegations.
Isis director of community services Michael Girolami said body mass index (BMI), which took into account a child's age, height and weight, was used to determine if a child was in a healthy weight range.
The online BMI assessment tool was available from the US Government's National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Mr Girolami said. "In this particular case, the child was placed in the 95th percentile, which is defined as "obese" in the chart," he said.
Dietitian Karen Inge said the BMI system had limitations because it measured only height and weight, not body composition, and muscle weighed more than fat.