The “childhood obesity epidemic” is prompting some strange practices.
One of these practices was highlighted in a recent article in the Amherst Times (Pennsylvania newspaper) titled: “In Obesity Fight, Many Fear A Note From School.”
Here is how the article began:
“Six-year-old Karlind Dunbar barely touched her dinner, but not for time-honored 6-year-old reasons. The pasta was not the wrong shape. She did not have an urgent date with her dolls. The problem was the letter Karlind discovered, tucked inside her report card, saying that she had a body mass index in the 80th percentile.
The first grader did not know what ‘index’ or ‘percentile’ meant, or that children scoring in the 5th through the 85th percentiles are considerred normal, while those scoring higher are at risk of being or already overweight.
Yet she became convinced that her teachers were chastising her for overeating.
Since the letter arrived, ‘my 2-year-old eats more than she does,’ said Georgeanna Dunbar, Karlind’s mother, who complained to the school and is trying to help her confused child. “She’s afraid she’s going to get in trouble,” Ms. Dunbar said.”
WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR KIDS???
I don’t get it. More and more states are adopting the “obesity report card” (Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas are the states I know about) even though there’s absolutely NO evidence they provide any value — and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence (like Karlind’s experience) these reports cause harm (e.g., eating disorders and social stigma, inappropriate actions based on a misinerpretation of numbers, sense of helplessness about high scores).
Here is what Marlene Schwartz, director of research and school programs at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale (in other words, no slouch), says about these programs:
“The practice of reporting body mass index scores in schools has gone from pilot program to mass weigh-in despite ‘no solid research’ on either its physical or psychological impact, and ‘no controlled randomized trial. Entire states are adopting a policy that has not been tested.”
But here’s the BIGGEST issue. If a parent gets a “obesity-alert” report card, what are they supposed to do about it?
Do they put the kid on a diet (proven to not work — in fact, studies show that diets actually cause weight gain over time), do they encourage more physical activity (also proven through numerous scientific studies to not work - see my last blog), do they send the kid to fat camp at a cost of several thousand dollars per month?
What EXACTLY do the schools expect the parents to do about their obese children?
I think the assumption is that obese kids are the result of parents who don’t know their kid is overweight and, thus, just keep pumping them full of junk food. Instead, if parents knew their kids were overweight, they’d quit feeding them so much unhealthy food and the children would lose their extra weight.
Author of The Straight Scoop About Childhood Obesity