Obesity is a health concern affecting adults and children in the UK and raises the risk of illnesses from:

  • High blood pressure;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • Raised blood lipid (including cholesterol);
  • Coronary heart disease;
  • Stroke;
  • Arthritis;
  • Breathlessness and sleep apnoea;
  • Gall bladder disease;
  • Certain cancers (e.g. uterus, breast, prostate, colon).
This chapter was added to the manual in September 2018.

1. Measuring Obesity

The most practical method to assess obesity is by using the Body mass Index (BMI). This describes weight for height and is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms and height in metres squared. See: NHS Choices BMI Healthy Weight Calculator.

According to NHS Choices, for most adults*, a BMI of:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 means you're a healthy weight;
  • 25 to 29.9 means you're overweight;
  • 30 to 39.9 means you're obese;
  • 40 or above means you're severely obese.

*High muscle mass may also account for high BMI.

2. Causes of Obesity

  • Poor Diet;
  • Lack of Physical Activity;
  • Family History;
  • Medical Reasons (i.e. certain medical conditions and/or medication).

3. Implications for Adoption Applicants

Obesity and other obesity related illnesses can have an impact on the role of carers and potential adopters. For carers and adopters with a high BMI, an early medical will be recommended.

Unless the applicant is severely incapacitated by obesity or is considered at such high risk that chronic ill health and early mortality are extremely likely, obesity by itself should not be a major consideration in approval. It is a factor, which must be taken into account along with all the other considerations. Information about dietary habits, lifestyle and exercise should be sought by the social worker and the applicants need to be informed that their weight is an issue and that it would be an issue for the Panel to consider.

Issues to be considered during the approval process include:

  • Does the applicant have the physical capacity to meet the needs of a young child;
  • Is the applicant sufficiently motivated to lose weight and committed to a healthy diet and lifestyle;
  • Does the applicant have sufficient commitment to a healthy diet and promotion of physical activity and exercise for a child;
  • Is the degree of the applicant's excess weight such that it might reduce his or her chances of remaining in good health until a child reaches independence.

4. Overweight Children

According to NHS Choices, research indicates that children of a healthy weight tend to be more confident, healthier, and fitter and are better able to learn. To reduce the risk of very overweight children becoming overweight adults, the following can help improve the health of children now:

  • Carers / adopters being a good role model by promoting a healthy lifestyle;
  • Encouraging 60 minutes of physical activity each day;
  • Providing children with food portions suitable for their age;
  • Eating healthy meals, drinks and snacks;
  • Less screen time and increased sleep.

5. Resources

For information on health and wellbeing associated with obesity, please see the NHS website, Obesity - Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment for more information.

Hertfordshire County Council encourages a variety of initiatives to make Hertfordshire a healthier place and help people make healthy choices:

  • Healthy Places - Includes the Physical Activity and Transporting Briefing for tips and benefits of physical activity and active travel;
  • Health in Herts - Includes information about healthy weight, keeping active, long term conditions, etc.
  • Do Something Different in Herts provides information about healthy living, including maintaining a healthy weight.