'Fat letters' that tell parents if their child is obese or overweight should be scrapped, public health experts in the United Kingdom said.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said these letters are not helpful in combatting childhood obesity, and that there are other forms of support for children who are obese.

The society surveyed 678 parents of children who were aged 18 years and below. They were asked if they were aware of the National Child Measurement Program (NCMP), and only 49 percent said they knew of it.

Researchers also found that only one-fifth of the parents find information from 'fat letters' useful, and that only half or 51 percent of them knew why their children were being weighed. About 20 percent of the parents said they received information from the NCMP that had been beneficial in helping their child lose weight.

The NCMP examines the weight and height of children who are aged four to five years old, as well as children who are aged 10 to 11 years old to assess levels of obesity and overweight in primary schools in the UK.

The RSPH said that the NCMP should have better integration with other efforts such as Change4Life. If the letters were continued, they should contain vouchers and guides on exercise and diet, and parents should be contacted via telephone prior to the receipt of the letter. They also suggested that schoolchildren should have better access to after-school activities and clubs.

RSPH Executive Shirley Cramer said they are hoping the Government's future obesity strategy would include their suggestions including the increase in levels of physical activity among children, the ideas around the promotion of 'junk food' to children, the reformulation of drink and food products, as well as the right amount of sugar content for these products.

"Parents also need to be provided with support, and our calls to reform the 'fat letter' are intended to make better use of this," she said.

She added that these letters should be the start of dialogue between parents and their children, and not just an act of flagging whether their children are overweight.

Tam Fry, a spokesperson from the National Obesity Forum, said the RSPH should be urging for a reformation of the letters and not abolishment.

Fry said the current form of the letter was ludicrous but that it could be improved to help parents understand why the NCMP exists.

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