Sweden to Screen Four-Year-Olds for Obesity

Medical professionals said on Monday that Sweden will begin screening all four-year-olds for obesity in an attempt to curb health risks linked to the increased incidence of overweight children.

Claude Marcus, the head of the national center for child obesity at Stockholm’s Karolinska Hospital, told the news agency AFP that ”There is now a national recommendation to all pediatricians to register BMI (the body mass index) in four-year-olds.”

He added that ”The prognosis for children who are overweight is getting worse and worse. They’re having a harder time losing the weight once they gain it, so it’s important to identify the problem as early as possible.”

In addition to registering Swedish four-year-olds’ height and weight development, pediatricians will be asked to survey their BMI, which measures the relative percentages of fat and muscle mass in  the body by dividing weight in kilos by height in meters and which is considered the best index for obesity.

According to Carl-Erik Flodmark, head physician at the child obesity center in Skåne in southern Sweden, ”In most children, weight problems won’t surface until later, but by checking four-year-olds we hope to find people who are especially at risk, who are genetically predisposed to become overweight.”

The move to screen BMI in four-year-olds follows a slew of reports showing an increased incidence of Sweden’s traditionally healthy children being overweight or obese.

Two separate surveys of BMI in Stockholm’s seven-year-olds in 1989 and 2003, revealed for instance that the number of overweight children soared from eight to 21 percent.