“Fat Letters”: Schools Now Measuring, Reporting BMIBy: Lacy Langley - October 8, 2013
A Naples, Florida mother of four, Kristen Grasso, received a letter from her school that was shocking, and it wasn’t about her daughter’s grades, according to Yahoo Shine. It was a report from a health and development screening that took place at her school that informed her that her daughter was overweight. The report says that the girl’s BMI was unhealthy.
Fox 4 News in Florida reports that while Grasso, who encourages her kids to be active and eat healthy, was aware that parents could sign a form to opt out of the screening, she assumed that it would be for hearing, vision, etc. She had no idea that a weight screening would be involved. This raises questions about whether these kinds of “fat letters”, as they’ve come to be known, could be detrimental to a child or cause descrimination.
“Kids that see results like this test and may be classified as overweight and they aren’t, may develop self-esteem issues.”, Grasso said.
When Grasso was asked if she considered her daughter overweight, she replied,”Absolutely not. Lily is tall, athletic, solid muscle by no means is she overweight.”
Grasso’s daughter is one of many undeserving, healthy kids who receive such letters:
20 states have now adopted mandatory health screenings including weigh-ins to calculate the BMI of public school children as part of an effort to combat the childhood obesity epidemic. BMI is determined by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. It is widely used by physicians as an indicator of weight problems.
In defense of the screenings, Dr. Dyan Hes, of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, who sits on the American Board of Obesity Medicine, says: “It’s a screening tool; that’s what people have to understand.” She points out that the letters aren’t meant for children’s eyes but for parents’, and that they are an indication that schools are taking the obesity epidemic seriously.
“We are waging a war on a disease that’s devastating the next generation,” She says that if parents receive a letter indicating their child has a high BMI, they should have their child’s physician perform a more detailed evaluation. “It’s a conversation starter,” she added.
But, shouldn’t parents be trusted to determine if their kid has a weight problem, not the schools? Isn’t that the kind of thing that is obvious to a parent, don’t they think we’d notice and get them checked out? And, should we stress middle schoolers about their weight, on top of everything else?
This remains a controversial topic. Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, says she’s “totally opposed to BMI report cards.” She says they can obviously lead to discrimination and bullying. She points out that these kinds of screenings can actually encourage unhealthy eating behaviors in children who are told they are too heavy. “Our entire premise here at the National Eating Disorders Association is that we should be focused on health, not weight,” she told Yahoo Shine.
Perhaps this war on obesity has been taken a little too far. I would think that at some point, well, always, that monitoring a child’s health and well-being is a parent’s job in connection with the child’s doctor, not the government’s. Maybe I’m way off base, here…
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