Do Weight Report Cards Make the Grade?

When it comes to your child’s report card, the higher the score the better, right? Maybe higher is better when it comes to science or social studies, but when it comes to kids’ weight, being the top of his class is a cause for concern. In recent years several states have tried to lower childhood obesity rates by sending kids home with “weight scores,” or BMI information, on their reportcards.

BMI, or body mass index, is a number derived from a formula using your height and weight (calculate your or your child’s BMI here). Since high BMIs among children have tripled over the last decade , obesity prevention is more of a hot-button issue in schools than ever. But even while American kids grow ever larger, parents remain uninformed: 84 percent of American parents think their kid are at a healthy weight, but almost one-third are in fact overweight or obese, found a recent survey from the Trust for America’s Health. “Weight report cards” were intended as a way to raise awareness among parents whose children were obese or at risk of becoming obese. Many schools have included letters of recommendation to parents of obese or overweight kids along with their children’s report cards, dispensing diet and exercise tips and professional referrals to help their kids get healthy.

The trend started in 2004, when Arkansas passed a law that required all 450,000 public-school children be measured for height and weight and sent home with BMI reports. Since then, Massachusetts, New York, California and even Malaysia have followed suit.

But a new study shows weight report cards may not score so high when it comes to effectiveness. In the last decade almost all public schools in California collected weight and height information for their students, but only some schools chose to send the results to parents. Dr. Kristine A. Madsen of the University of California-San Fransisco studied the long-term effects of weight reports by comparing weight loss results of children whose parents were notified of their weight problem to those who were simply measured at school. The findings, reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, show that kids who were sent home with weight reports cards lost no more significant weight than those who were not.

Right now, medical professionals are divided over whether or not schools should screen kids for BMI: the Institute of Medicine recommends the practice as long as parents are notified, but the Center for Disease Control and the American Heart Association say there isn’t enough evidence to prove it’s an effective idea.

What do you think—should your child be measured for BMI at school, and should you be notified if he’s overweight or obese?

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  1. by Deborah

    On July 18, 2011 at 8:55 am

    This is a hot topic around our house. My children are both taller than their age group by about 2 years worth of height. Current BMI charts do not take that into account and when their true age is averaged into their weight and height, my tall, slim kids are labeled as borderline obese. I’m curious if this is affecting other families also? My sensitive son read his chart from school and now keeps grabbing at his non existent belly and requesting larger, non clinging shirts. While I think it is great that we are made aware that there is room for improvement with each and everyone of us, and our diets, lowering a child’s body image shouldn’t be the goal.

  2. by mamalia

    On July 28, 2011 at 2:44 am

    I think that this would make kids even more self-conscious about their weight. As a parent, I would be highly against BMI screening if our school ever offered it – this is something that’s done in a doctor’s office, not in school. Because in doctor’s office – it’s a health concern, and even a small kid would take it as this; in school – it’s more of an appearance question, and since the kids tend to ask each other questions about their report cards, this could lead to some social tensions with peers.

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