An Australian health expert says inspecting lunch boxes at school is 'perverse'

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Inspecting lunchboxes at school is perverse and unlikely to improve children’s health, says a University of Queensland health expert.

Michael Gard, Associate Professor at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, says hysteria about obesity is infringing the rights of parents to choose how they raise and care for children.

“Panic around obesity appears to trump all other concerns in the current climate,” he says.

“Despite quite well-known data that Australian rates of childhood obesity have changed very little over the last 15 to 20 years, this is an issue that still tends to be discussed in breathlessly apocalyptic terms.

“Yes, too many children are overweight, but the hysteria we have created is out of proportion to the problem.”

Dr Gard, the author of the book, Schools and Public Health: Past, Present Future, says he’s spoken to many parents and teachers about lunch box blitzes.

He says it’s an “invasive” practice unlikely to deliver health benefits of any kind.

“Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the lunch box inspection is that it seems to rest on the assumption that the teacher knows more about what children need and how they should be parented than parents themselves,” he says.

Dr Gard says the concern about lunch box inspections is part of a wider debate about the public health role of schools and how far public health concerns should be allowed to infringe on schools’ educational work.

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