‘Obesity’ Letters Anger Parents
Some Massachusetts schools angered parents by sending letters home about students’ body shape and obesity status.
The program, an obvious attempt to do something about the ever-growing epidemic of childhood obesity, focuses primarily on the body mass index, (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on weight and height. For most people, the BMI is a fairly good indicator of one’s fitness.
But it doesn’t work for everyone, including a ten-year-old whose BMI reading classified him as “obese.” The boy’s mother says he plays football, participates in martial arts and wrestles. Since muscle weighs more than fat, a muscular person’s BMI could be on the high side because his weight would be high for his height.
The child’s mom says the school is focusing too much on the number and not enough on nutrition or hiring more gym teachers.
Sorry, but I have to disagree: we’re in a serious fight here, people. You have to start somewhere.
I can’t imagine that the school didn’t send an explanation of BMI along with the letters. Maybe no such explanation was present, but then that would have been a grievous error on the school’s part; a reasonable explanation would have made it clear that BMI isn’t a “perfect” measure and that other factors need to be taken into account. A reasonable explanation, however, would have also mentioned that BMI is a widely-accepted measure that can indicate a problem.
If such an explanation was included, then it’s the parents who are “focusing too much on the number.”
Talking about nutrition is not enough. Hiring more gym teachers is not enough.
Schools should be doing everything they can to get the message to parents; today’s parents, as we’ve heard over and over again, are more likely than any other generation in our history to outlive their own children because of obesity-related health problems.
Schools need to be doing everything they can to help.
Frankly, as “embarrassed” as I might have been with a BMI letter when I was a student, I wish my school would have sent one home to my folks. Maybe that would have prevented me from having such a weight issue later in life, one that I’m still fighting.
We need to stop being so sensitive and learn to deal with problems. It takes stepping out of denial and it takes the willingness to stop complaining about any little effort made to alleviate the problem. If leaving it up to parents alone were a valid solution, we wouldn’t have the weight epidemic to begin with.
Should schools get “into the act” of fighting obesity? Of course: they’re supposed to be educating students. And education is a major weapon in the fight.
That’s my take, at least. What’s yours?
How do you feel about schools sending letters home indicating a child’s BMI? Is it a case of a school overstepping its bounds, or should parents have that information so they can evaluate their child’s health sooner?