For those of you who listened to President Obama's State of the Union address on January 27th, you likely heard him introduce his wife's initiative to tackle childhood obesity.
So it’s been over a month since The Boston Globe published an article“BMI screening will begin this fall in Mass. schools.” This topic has weighed heavily on my mind (yikes, no pun intended) but I still seem to be combing through all of my thoughts on the topic.
The article states that starting this fall public schools will begin weighing and measuring 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th graders (parents can opt out) as a means to screen for overweight and obesity. The results, along with a report on how to deal with a child’s weight problem will be sent home to the parents. As I type, my blood is beginning to boil.
Here are a couple of thoughts:
1.) America has a pretty poor track record. As we’ve become more weight obsessed over the past several decades, the number of people that are overweight and obese has continued to climb.
2.) Research has shown that obesity prevention programs targeted to elementary and middle school children increased disordered eating behaviors.
3.) There is no utility in sending home a report card to a parent that says “your child is fat and at increased risk for Type II diabetes.” The article states that one of the recommendations for parents with overweight kids is to take them to their pediatrician. No offense to any pediatricians out there but I cannot help but laugh. I’d love to meet a physician that has the skills and more than 10 minutes solve their patient’s “weight problem.”
So rather than sending our children home with a report card, why don’t we start taking action that focuses on behaviors, not numbers. There is plenty of research to show that this is effective. Here are some ideas:
1.) Have students track the number of minutes they spend per day engaging in physical activity. And by all means, let’s stop cutting out recess and gym classes.
2.) Create a school garden. It will teach our children where food comes from, how to take stewardship over the earth, and supplement the pathetic meals they are served at school with more fruits and vegetables.
3.) Partner with local farms to facilitate work in exchange for reduced or free crops for low-income families.
There are a myriad of ways to promote healthy living. Sending report cards home is not one of them. With a Department of Health staffed with intelligent and capable people, I’d like to think we can do better than that. (Sorry for the rant, I do try to keep them to a minimum.)