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A number of schools across the US have joined the growing trend of including body mass index scores for children on their report cards.
Childhood obesity has skyrocketed in the past decade with over one third of American children now considered overweight or obese. The health effects of childhood obesity and high BMI can result in serious health problems in adulthood, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma and sleep apnea.
Although BMI doesn’t measure body fat directly, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend using BMI to screen children between the ages of 2 and 19.
Recent findings have shown that a large percentage of parents underestimate their child’s weight and the majority of pediatric overweight and obesity goes undiagnosed in primary care settings in the USA.
Schools are now looking for ways to engage parents in promoting healthy weight and educate their kids about the dangers of obesity. Schools in nineteen states are currently providing BMI report cards to parents.
While the CDC, AAP and some experts might argue that this initiative provides valuable knowledge to parents, giving them new tools in the fight against childhood obesity, research suggests that parental awareness of weight status is not improved by BMI report cards.
Findings are inconclusive on whether BMI report cards lead to changes in weight-related health behaviors, and there is no evidence to suggest that report cards ultimately impact weight status. Additionally, research indicates that BMI report cards may increase dieting, a risk factor for both increased weight and eating disorders in adolescents.
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