Schools in 19 states have started an annual weigh-in and sending reports, called “fat letters” home to parents telling them whether their children have a high body mass index or not.
Schools from Arkansas to Illinois, participate in the annual student weigh-ins. Some pediatricians say body mass index (BMI) readings are helpful for combating childhood obesity, which has become a growing problem.
These body mass index (BMI) reports are a result of measuring students at annual weigh-ins, indicating whether a child is in the green, healthy zone or the red, danger zone.
A child or teen whose BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile is considered overweight, while those in the 95th percentile or above are considered obese.
Right now, BMI readings are “the best means we have to determine whether a child’s weight is healthy or unhealthy,” said Dr. Lanre Omojokun Falusi, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But eating disorder experts worry the reports might do more harm than good. “I would like to see BMI testing in schools banned. For those who are already insecure about their weight, these tests can potentially trigger an eating disorder,” said Claire Mysko, National Eating Disorder Association.
More than 40-percent of 9 and 10-year-old girls who are already on a diet, and as many as 60-percent of all 6 to 12-year-olds are worried about their weight.
According to the Clark County School District, Nevada state law requires 4th, 7th and 10th grade students at 19 schools to be checked.
A grant from the Centers for Disease Control requires 3rd, 6th and 9th grade students at 23 schools to get tested.
Not only are obese children and teens more likely to become obese adults, but they also report social and psychological problems, including discrimination by their peers and poor self-esteem. In one retrospective study, Swedish researchers found that overweight children had increased odds of being bullied in school.