In America’s ongoing war against obesity, schools are only one battleground. But they’re a controversial one, especially as districts adopt the unproven practice of sending home obesity report cards listing students’ body mass index. While the practice is mandated in only a few states—in Pennslyvania, for example, the cards are required for K-8 students—many individual districts have embraced it after hearing about positive results from a small number of programs. But there’s more to raising healthy kids than simply reporting obesity, critics contend. In many districts that report BMI to parents, children continue to face inadequate PE time and unhealthy cafeteria food. “It would be the height of irony if we successfully identified overweight kids through BMI screening while continuing to feed them atrocious quality meals and snacks,” says David Ludwig, a physician at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. In addition, parents who receive notice that their children are in the 90th percentile for weight based on their height, age, and gender often don’t know what to do with the information. And, surrounded by ever-expanding American waistlines, many parents disagree that their children need to slim down. To truly change students’ eating habits, says Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, schools need to provide “really high-quality nutrition and physical activity assessments.” That’s a bigger bite than many states and districts can afford to chew.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.