Report cards with kids BMIs get a big fat F

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ACSH has been skeptical about the recent move by various school districts (about 30 percent nationwide since 2006) to reduce the toll of childhood obesity by sending overweight or obese children home with letters reporting their body-mass index (BMI), which is a crude measure of weight relative to height. Now, a new study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine finds that children in California public schools whose parents received such letters were no more likely to lose weight than children whose parents were not informed. The study assessed nearly seven million fifth- seventh- and ninth-graders from the California public schools that have recorded kids heights and weights. The lead researcher concedes that the absence of any change in these children s weight may be attributed to parents lack of information about the meaning of BMI or perhaps they never actually received the letters; these confounding issues were not evaluated.

Study author Dr. Kristine A. Madsen, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, recommends rather than waste time, effort, and scarce funding on such fruitless methods that schools instead boost their physical education programs and make school lunches healthier. Dr. Madsen believes that such school modifications will make an impact on obesity, since children spend so much more time in school than they do at home.

ACSH today welcomes back Dr. Ruth Kava, who served us long and well as our Director of Nutrition, and who returns as our Senior Fellow in Nutrition. She believes Dr. Madsen s response is a cop-out. If parents are able to get their kids accustomed to eating salads and veggies in the home, she says, that s what the kids will choose in school. ACSH, of course, advocates eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight.