'Weight Report Cards'

I've written about this before: schools around the world have been wanting to start sending home 'weight report cards' to parents on their children's weight. Well, one school in New York did just that.
http://nypost.com/2014/05/22/nyc-says-this-girl-is-fat/

According to this, the school mediated each child's weight and height and calculated BMI. Then, each child was sent home with a sealed envelope addressed to their parents. The children didn't see their weights, and they were told not to open the envelopes. However, this little girl opened her letter and read that she was considered to be overweight on the BMI scale. At night, the girl asked her mom if she  was fat - because the letter from school said she was.

I'm infuriated by this. Firstly, why are schools putting such an emphasis on weight and BMI? We all know that BMI is just a tool and not always a reliable indicator of health. It shouldn't be used alone to determine how healthy someone is. This little girl's BMI may be right over the 'normal range', but she certainly isn't fat! There are so many factors to consider, such as genetics, bone and muscle, etc. Also, the issue of weight is personal. Parents take their children for doctors' appointments, where they are weighed and measured. This is to be done under medical supervision, where healthcare professionals can help patients see if their weight is healthy or not. Parents don't need a school telling them that their child is 'fat'. This isn't the role of the school. Yes, I agree that if a child is unhealthy (whether that mean they are over or under weight, problems sour attention, etc), schools are usually the ones to notice because kids are always there. However, sending home a BMI 'report card' isn't necessary, and actually does more harm than good. And what is the rationale behind giving the children sealed envelopes and telling them not to open them? These are children we are talking about! They are curious and will certainly want to open the letters. And when they do, shame and guilt will ensure. Children will compare their results to others. And that is when teasing and bullying will occur.

I don't agree with these BMI report cards. As a nurse, I am more than aware that being under or overweight is dangerous and serious. However, I also know that telling this to a child does more harm than good. Kids are growing and shouldn't be put on diets. Instead, they need to learn how to balance healthy meals with physical activity. Kids shouldn't grow up in schools that are constantly putting emphasis on their weights. Kids shouldn't be subjected to teasing and bullying because they got a certain BMI score. Kids need to go to school and feel safe and confident. If there is an issue with their weight, healthcare professionals can address these. Sending out a report card for BMI makes weight seem to be an evaluation measure for children - as of they are being graded on what they weigh and the number on the scale. This is going to play into negative body images, poor self-este, and even eating disorders. And it sends out the message to kids that their weight is something they can be graded on. These messages are harmful and can really impact children. BMI report cards are simply wrong in my opinion.  There is no place for them. It's sad to see that children around the world are being taught to see their bodies are something to be evaluated on, as a number that determines one' self-worth and success. Society is sensing out co flooring messages to children: we tell them not to worry about their weight and to eat a balanced diet, and to love their bodies. And then we give these same children a report card on their BMI and teach them that their weight is something that determines how good they are. This is sad. I an only hope that with progress, we can come to the correct conclusion. That weight isn't the 'end all'. BMI isn't an accurate tool, and children shouldn't be told that they are overweight and need to diet.

Popular posts from this blog

Starvation 'feels' good...?

Lessons from infants: 'Taking it all in'

Watch My Latest Presentation: What Future Doctors Need to Know About ED