Safeguarding: Obesity as a child protection issue

Whether childhood obesity is a child protection issue has divided commentators, with many questioning whether a child should be removed from parents who do not seek to reduce their child's weight, where significant obesity is identified. This divide is reflected in the social work profession where there is resistance to a role focused on bodily surveillance, whilst also acknowledging the need to investigate neglect where evidence exists of a clear parental failure to manage a child’s diet, health and fitness. Similar divisions exist in the medical profession. In the UK, practice varies with a consideration of obesity being incorporated in some multi-agency child protection procedures but with no mention in others and little research to explain variations.

This research aimed to understand whether childhood obesity is a child protection concern and had three objectives:
• To explore the current and past practice of staff working within child protection and
obesity services regarding child protection and obesity
• To explore staff perceptions of childhood obesity as a child protection issue using
interview and focus group methods
• To explore the use of the Viner et al (2010) framework for action to understand child
protection concerns for children who are obese

More information on this project can be found at