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Report cards for your child's weight?

March 28, 2012

It’s all over news headlines: childhood obesity. It now seems to be an issue that just won’t go away, despite all of the programs and campaigns to help encourage kids and families to become healthier. It’s just so hard with countless fast-food chains, ever-evolving technology that gives kids one more reason not to move from the couch, and school systems that have been resistant to change. However, the school system has been attacked hard, and slowly, schools are now making a greater effort to become healthier. Some schools have even taken it to the next level with what are called, “BMI report cards”.

What on earth are BMI report cards?

Let’s first start by defining BMI. Body mass index, or BMI, is the ratio of a person’s height and weight as a way to determine whether that person is overweight or obese. It is often used to help identify those who are at risk for weight-related health problems.

So, now we have an understanding of what BMI is, and we all know what report cards are: those pieces of paper every parent anxiously waits for their child to bring home, to see how he or she is doing in school. Often times, the good grades are rewarded and the bad grades are frowned upon. Let’s now put the two together to talk about a BMI report card.

BMI report cards have been introduced as a way to identify overweight and obese kids in the school system. The purpose of these report cards is to help parents become aware of their child’s health status and encourage them to take action by seeking out a medical professional if their child falls in the “at-risk” category. The screening is administered at the school and the report includes the child’s BMI results, an explanation of what the results mean, recommended follow-up actions, and tips on healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management.

Pros vs. Cons

There are many benefits to a program that tracks a child’s health status. The number one benefit is that it provides awareness to parents, kids, and the community. Since 1980, obesity rates have almost tripled among children and adolescents and nearly 17% of children, ages 2 -19, are obese. BMI report cards are just one of many attempts to reverse these statistics.

If a change is going to occur, it has to start with the family. With the school system’s support and the proper administration, these report cards can help address the health concerns many students are at risk for at an individual level. With education, counseling, and the right resources, the hope is that the family will move towards a healthier lifestyle because they see the benefit in saving their child from health complications down the road and give them a better quality of life, starting now.

However, with benefits come several concerns. The first concern that comes to mind is unfortunately, common among school-age kids: the fat kid getting picked on by others at school. BMI screenings could encourage this type of bullying among kids.

There is also the risk of peer pressure among students to share his or her BMI with classmates, which gives peers all the more reason to pick on each other. Kids who are overweight are oftentimes more vulnerable to body image issues and these screenings might increase those issues among kids. These kids may feel pressured by the school and parents to be “skinnier” and run the risk of accomplishing this in a dangerous way through extreme dieting and possibly developing an eating disorder.

With accurate measurements, proper education for parents and students, and maximum privacy of student results, BMI report cards could result in a significant decrease of childhood obesity rates over time. However, the concerns that have been expressed could imply the report cards would result in more harm than good.

Do BMI report cards deserve an “A” grade?

Do you think BMI report cards are beneficial or harmful to students? How would your kids respond to this type of screening?