BMI Reporting In Schools A Real Concern

Childhood overweight and obesity are recognized health concerns in the United States and can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. This has prompted schools around the country to track students’ weight, in particular Body Mass Index, in attempt to monitor the issue and promote healthy lifestyle habits within children. However, the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) and professionals in this field alike have recently issued statements strongly opposing these programs. Unfortunately, these programs, referred to as “Fitnessgrams”, are being used inappropriately by untrained professionals where healthy children are being deemed “overweight” often resulting in a lower self esteem. It’s important to raise awareness about the inconsistencies in these programs and alert the community to override this way of measuring/monitoring healthy behaviors in children. What is Body Mass Index? Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of one’s body fat that is calculated from that person’s weight and height. Surely it is important to be aware of your BMI due to health risks that come with being overweight, but this mathematical calculation is a rather poor method for measuring weight in young children due to various factors such as muscle development. Why Should We Be Concerned? Students are being categorized based on BMI reporting. In a statement recently made by the AED, BMI reporting can “inadvertently contribute to overconcern with weight and shape, disordered eating and weight bias”. Though these programs are designed to increase student goal setting and health, they have the potential to do quite the opposite. Categorizing students based on unreliable weight measurements inevitably leads to dangerous peer-based comparisons, lowered self-esteem, and shaming. In extreme cases, students have landed in the hospital due to excessive exercise and disordered eating after learning about “elevated” BMIs. The public reporting of these tests can have an extremely negative affect on these children. What Should We Do? The AED is a global association, and with their recent statement opposing these programs, they are taking the necessary steps to make it known on a national level that these programs should not be supported. It is our duty as professionals, as parents, as a community to raise awareness about our concerns with school administrations and promote better tactics for monitoring childhood obesity and healthy lifestyles. These tests should be performed by licensed professionals rather than school personal to avoid misguided dietary practices. Instead, let’s make schools a healthy environment for our children to be a part of by promoting physical activity, healthy eating choices, and acceptance. Opt out of these programs at schools, and leave the medical advice to professionals.

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